Yes, my darling, I remember it.
I remember you were pregnant, not even showing yet, with our first child. And we stood in front of the blinding blue sea on the Promenade des Anglais and took a picture. You wore your hair differently then. You were so beautiful.
That boulevard – I can remember so well; we strolled along under the heat and in the breeze off the water – is where hundreds of people were injured and killed yesterday by an Islamist terror attack. A truck barreled through a crowd that had gathered there to celebrate Bastille Day.
I didn’t want to tell you last night, when you came home late.
I find myself sharply turning off the radio in the car, more and more often. I don’t want the kids to hear. I cut it off in the middle of the words ‘murdered’, or ‘massacre’, or ‘bloody’, though I could probably stop it earlier. Maybe some part of me wants them to know.
I don’t know what kind of world we’re living in. I am losing track. Was Orlando bigger, or smaller? How many killed in Brussels? Paris? Turkey? Santa Monica? London? Madrid? New York City?
I’m missing a few in there, I know it. I just can’t remember them all.
When we were in Nice I don’t think we could’ve imagined a truck barreling down the street at us. It was too pretty. The old hotels too picturesque. We were looking for crepes.
But I can imagine it now. I can see it, because I looked at the photographs and watched the videos. I feel obligated. I feel repulsed. I watched the video yesterday while you were out – while I was baking bread – and nearly vomited.
There was a body splayed out with its leg twisted nearly backwards. There were pools of blood so full and red and shiny they struck me, for a moment, as fake.
Am I growing older? Were we so young when we were there? It was just eight years ago. The world has turned so violent since then. Maybe it was just as violent before. Maybe we didn’t realize it.
But where will our children go on their honeymoons? What seaside city will be safe? Vernazza, in Cinqueterre? We went there too. It’s smaller, more isolated, with narrower streets. I don’t remember just how narrow. I think a truck would probably still fit.
Anyway. They’re awake now, playing around upstairs in their pyjamas. They’ll make their way down any minute, asking for breakfast and to watch TV. I should make sure it’s not on a news channel. I should run out to the car and tune the radio to jazz. No, wait, the jazz station cuts in with news announcements on the hour.
I still feel safe, oddly. Because St. Paul is a small city in the middle of a huge country, and nothing ever happens here. Except it’s stupid to feel safe. Because plenty of things happen here, and because we are not so small (bigger than Nice, anyway). And violence seems to be going viral in a way that doesn’t discriminate between small and large, tolerant or intolerant, religion, politics, gender or age.
I am foolish to feel safe. But we have to make the kids feel safe, and I don’t think I could tell them one thing, while always feeling another. It’s nonsense, this world we are living in, but I will show them that picture. The one of us smiling into the sun, just married, and young. I’ll show them that picture and tell them about our honeymoon in Nice, and I’ll leave out the horrors of yesterday.
And I’ll tell them about our trips to Cinqueterre, and Rome, and Venice, and Paris, and everywhere else we’ve been, or want to go. And I’ll leave out the bad parts; the horrors of yesterday and tomorrow and next year, which I don’t know how to stop or explain.
I know they’re going to keep coming, these acts of violence. And I don’t feel safe anymore. But our children are so young, their weddings so far off. Surely they will be able to honeymoon anywhere in the world they please.
Surely by then they’ll be able to turn the radio back on, listen to jazz, and not have to keep their fingers on the volume knob.