When I was little, I envied my brother furiously for his imagination.
Well into middle school — maybe even high school? — I could hear him in his room, his voice pitched in battle as his Legos or action figures fought for dominion. He built elaborate scenes with the Legos, worked out why this group was warring with another; everything down to the last detail.
I watched this, scoffing outwardly even as I despaired inside. Why couldn't I get myself into that dream world? I remember literally forcing myself to play with some plastic figures — Disney characters, my favorites, even if I didn't play with them often — and making myself do their voices and trying to make them interact. I believe I threw them down in frustration when I realized that I couldn't get past the fact that it wasn't real. I had Barbie, too, but while I enjoyed all her outfits and accessories, she wasn't really talking to Ken and never would be.
As I grew up, I had to admit that I had some imagination; I could write, couldn't I, and that took something. Poems and beginnings of short stories (though never ends) came fairly easily as I moved through late-high school and college.
And now I find where all my imagination was hiding, what it was waiting for, and I'm wishing I could've swapped with Mark and played with those stupid Legos instead.
I've covered cops&courts a handful of times now for the paper here in Yakivegas, and I do not like it. I can't see it, as my coworker told me he does, as "words on a page." These are people; that was a real little girl who had her pants pulled down by an uncle who molested her; that was a real man who drowned in his backyard pool when going out for his evening swim; and that was a real 17-year-old boy today who shot himself with a shotgun after his older brother died last week.
Maybe all those years of watching every crime TV show on USA Network are finally catching up with me. But although it's getting easier — death, it seems, bothers me less than violation — I still can't turn these crimes into words on a page.
Today, for instance. I got to work and got passed a story on an apparent homicide that happened outside a school. A teenage boy, shot in the head; close-range so they couldn't identify his face. Then in the afternoon, the coroner says it hasn't been ruled a homicide or a suicide. Then we look up his name, see if he's in our archives, and we find his 25-year-old brother died last week, apparently of non-suspicious causes.
My unstoppable imagination supplies the details: I picture the 17-year-old brother, sobbing around his house while his family tries to console him, tell him that his brother's in a better place now. Or maybe he was silent, sitting in his room and not saying a word, just utterly convinced that the world had ended. I picture his siblings' fruitless attempts to reach out, to reach him, to let him know that he was not alone and that things will get better one day.
This was the first time it's really hit me how selfish suicide is. I picture his parents — robbed of two sons in less than a week. I picture the weight of grief on them as they try to hold up the remaining four siblings. I picture the numbness. I picture what my parents would do if something like that happened — and try to force it from my mind.
And the fact that my work, the very reason I'm forced to learn the details of these cases inside and out, may be worsening the problem makes it feel even less worth it. We didn't name the suicide victim, but the slimy TV news reporter did, and now that family has to put up with shame and questions on top of grief. People will be shaking their heads and saying, "That poor boy, if only the family had been there for him," when really the family must have done all it could.
Do I make it better, when I tell these people's stories? Do I make it worse? Most of the stories I do, especially now in education, are positive; people respond wanting to help, wanting to make a difference, or they respond with nothing and at least don't tip the scales one way or the other. But when I bare someone's personal life for all to see — even my criminals, when I post details of their police reports that will now follow them anytime anyone does a Google search — what good does it do?
Never fear; there's no danger I'll give up the reporter thing. I still love it, aside from a few brutally graphic police reports, and I'm not apt to give up anytime soon.
I just hope it's making a positive difference in the world. That's all we really have, isn't it? To leave the world better than when we entered and hope we're remembered kindly, if at all.
2 months ago