White Noise

This is part of a series sharing old essays from my personal blog years ago. Hope you enjoy.

I’m at the coffee shop inside a Borders bookstore, sipping an iced coffee and flipping through magazines. I open to the cover story in Time magazine, about the drug wars raging in Mexico. There’s a photograph that fills two glossy pages and I stop for a moment and spend some time with that photograph. Its subject is a murdered cop’s family and friends, grieving at his funeral.

I want to disconnect from the initial impact of it, the pity I feel in my heart at seeing these people. I try to break it into bits, to look at the eyes of each person and then turn around and look out through them. There are two women, overcome with horror and grief, who are held close by their family or friends. Did their bodies give out, their limbs so soaked with weary sadness that they could not possibly stay upright any longer? There’s a man with dirt in his hands, falling through his fingers, onto the grave I assume. His face is calm, ceremonial almost. In the corner of the photograph stands a small boy with a smudged face. He looks subdued yet curious. He doesn’t comprehend what’s happened.

This isn’t a rare thing for them. This is Juarez. This is their town. This has become their life. But maybe, maybe, some of them had only been waiting. Maybe the women. Maybe the man with the dirt. They’d seen it happen, over and over, to all those around them. Not yet, they said to themselves. It’s not here yet. Someday, any day. But it wasn’t there. They just waited.

I look up and it is beyond peaceful. It’s hot today, in the hundreds, but we are so comfortable in the air conditioning. I can taste mint, chocolate, and bitter coffee on my tongue. The sunlight is bright and falls on the tables in front of me, where couples sit reading, drinking their coffee, talking very quietly, considerate of others.

Someone’s laugh rises above the hum of white noise.

I know it’s only chance that I am here, looking from far, far away at pictures of unimaginable things. I have the fairly unbelievable privilege of closing this magazine, picking up a gossip mag or a fashion journal, and directing my mind to less disturbing thoughts. I get to look away. That simple thought, that when it gets too much for me, I can close it, toss it, forget it, walk away, be in the sunshine with my love and my coffee and my dreams…well, I don’t have words for that.

But I have this image sometimes, of one of those women sitting at a table in her kitchen. Her baby is asleep. Her husband is dead. I see her with a fashion magazine, completely engrossed in runway trends, the best way to rock blue eyeshadow, an interview with a celebrity with a life so far removed from her own it is hard to accept they are both human beings sharing the same planet. The sunlight is bright and she stops for a minute to appreciate the brilliant orange that is her breakfast, illuminated with golden, dripping, delicious sunshine.

Outside, someone laughs.


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