In the fall of 2018 a spree killer started shooting people in Rogers Park, the neighborhood where I live on the north side of Chicago. The first life taken was a 73-year-old man walking his dogs on a Sunday morning, killed execution-style and found by his neighbor face-down on the sidewalk. On the news they showed a photo of him hugging his husband. He is laughing and safe and in love and that’s the image I will screenshot in my memory — not a body on the ground, but a human being, loved.
The second life was taken 36 hours later with the same gun; a 24-year-old kosher supervisor at a local grocery store, shot point-blank and left for dead. He was dressed in traditional Jewish attire and playing Pokémon Go, a mobile game where you locate and battle adorable virtual creatures. The night after his murder, hundreds of players gathered at Loyola Beach for a candlelight vigil. “He would trade his crappiest Pokémon to give us his best,” one told a reporter, and I think about what it means to be part of a community.
At the same time the shootings started, Chicago was watching the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the white police officer who shot a black teenage boy named Laquan MacDonald sixteen times. The nation was watching the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, our bodies buzzing with rage.
The camera pans out: my neighborhood, my city, my county.
Then right back in to my heart.
Six months earlier I adopted a puppy, a tiny squirmy pit mix named Ripley after Sigourney Weaver in Alien. I needed to get out of my apartment, out of the depression winding like vines in my veins. I’d spent a year pretending it wasn’t happening. I’m just tired. Working too much. Not enough Vitamin D. The fact that I couldn’t get out of bed had nothing to do with neurobiology and everything to do with awful Chicago winters and the world in 2018.
The last time this happened, I had a newborn. His needs were bigger than mine. It was easy to push down panic because this tiny squirmy hungry human needed to eat or poop or chew on my cheek. Now — not so easy. That perfect human is eleven years old, and yes, he still needs me, but not in the same way. He isn’t an excuse. He never was.