(it always ends the same way)
It’s so easy to forget that it always ends the same way.
We pore over their lives. Hungrily read stories from family members and anecdotes from friends. We watch their homemade movies, read their school assignments, examine their drawings and notes scribbled in day planners.
Listen to songs they loved, closely, straining to hear some truth of who they were, what touched them. Stare at photos, into eyes. See how VHS tapes caught them moving and speaking among peers, in those same halls of eventual violent destiny, only before. We query every blink, nod, smirk, grimace. We find prophecy.
Did he like dogs? Which preferred cats? What did he eat? When did he drink? Was he nice? Was he shy? Did he hit girls? Who did he love? Were they best friends? Didn’t he follow? (Sometimes he led.) It’s more complex than that. He carried a berserk and he wore an earring. What is the halcyon? What do you think when you look at the stars? Where are those everlong waterfalls? And why and why and why?
Read transcripts and hear snatches of their secret selves, recorded in the basement and a room with red shutters while parents sleep. How does this fit with what he said before? Can he be both this and that? Who hated more? Who felt more sorrow? Who had more rage? What if they never met? Jesus, you’re on a role.
They feel simultaneously too real and entirely fictional; boys we could have known, boys we feel we do know, boys frozen in time who no one ever knew.
All the study of their too-short lives makes it easy to forget that it always comes back to this: roughly an hour. Haunting shouts on 911 calls. Grainy CCTV footage (a sip, a lob, a lope). Gruesome crime scene photographs. Reams of witness statements. Innocents slain and wounded. Shockwaves of trauma that ripple through worlds.
They come back to life with each re-watch and every new read. They walk again when we click ‘play’. But we only know them because of that hour. And it always ends the same way.