"Tell me about the window." -a freewrite prompt from the wonderful Jena Schwartz
Our driveway was a narrow one that led us to the garage through a tunnel of yews and a redwood-proportioned sassafras. I loved that sassafras tree what with its skyscraper stature and leaves large as the hands of a giant but soft as velvet. That’s where filé for gumbo comes from; did you know that? From the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree.
It was early evening the day we drove up and saw the garage door halted at an unusual angle. “I wonder what got caught in there,” Mom said. I peered through the windshield with eyes pressed into slits, hoping to better see the blockade.
Suddenly, Mom gasped and put the car in park. Tears streamed from her eyes as she tried to keep my sister and me from seeing what was holding the door ajar.
We’d been hearing about “Satanic activities” in our neighborhood, urged to be careful as a wraithlike boy, who slunk about with malevolence in his deeply-set eyes, was suspected of inflicting harm on his neighbors pets.
When I saw my beloved cat, Atticus, a handsome gray tabby with a sweet, trusting soul, on his back under the garage door, all I knew was that I was witnessing evil for the first time. He’d been stabbed –“sacrificed” the cop said- and held to die as the garage door crushed his lungs.
Thirty years later, as I write of this for the first time, I am still rendered speechless and ill by the thought of such depraved behavior. I do not understand any better than I did then, which is to say not at all, what would possess someone to murder a helpless other. I cannot fathom what kind of void must reside in the place of one’s heart to enable that person to watch a defenseless being scared and in pain and hoping for life but having it slowly taken away. Purposefully. Patiently. Remorselessly. That kind of inhumanity terrifies me.
This week, as I looked through my computer screen window and saw the news that Samuel Dubose had been shot in the head at point-blank range by a Cincinnati cop who'd pulled him over on dubious (at best) reasons and about Cecil the lion being lured out and shot by the dentist, suffering a 40-hour death before being decapitated and skinned, carcass left to rot in the African sun, head the only thing that asshole killer wanted, I was whirled back to that evening when I was a child. When I saw firsthand how grotesque and baseless and truly ugly some people are. When my core was so deeply shaken that it still to this day trembles in the face of horrific inhumanity.
There is not a moral equivalency between killing a human and killing a lion, but I think the actions are rooted in the same heinous beginning which is one of inhumanity. And too often lately, when I look through windows, that’s what I see.