I wish I could “write light” today, and even as I coin that phrase, I realize at least two of its meanings. The first one signals my original thought, to write a “fun” post, and I have one—about my cat and his attraction to the television—all ready to go. The second is an abstraction that escapes me: write something that brings illumination, positivity, a smile.
But I struggle to do either. Last Friday I substitute-taught at the local high school in my rural district. I don’t know what I expected—increased security, a hushed restraint, but no, nothing like that. Because lives go on, for the most part. It’s almost time for graduation here, so the chatter revolves around the senior prank, its whimsy obvious as I stare out the classroom window into the student parking lot. Cars display minds of their own, parked in a jumble, ignoring all those orderly white lines.
The seniors in period three proudly explain about the group chat that “led to this mayhem,” but really, mayhem has been redefined, and random parking hardly qualifies. I do not bring up the events in Uvalde (nor any of the many others), but wonder what our complicit silence says.
It is the last period of the day when a class of sophomores straggles in, many late, most desultory. They get their assignments; they work quietly. I circulate, offering to help, encountering only a series of head shakes. At last one young man waves me over. “Ms. Emerson,” he whispers, “there’s a lockdown at Salem high school. What do you think?”
What do I think? I tell him not to spread this news. Let’s wait and see. Salem is a safe distance from here. But he is no longer with us, his eyes phone-lit and far away.