Eight years ago a friend was found dead in a parking lot, shot outside his car. It made no sense he was dead. It made no sense he was in that parking lot. It made no sense he was in that part of town. It looked like a robbery, but nobody had any idea why he was where he was.

We weren’t super close, but I could see us getting closer. A group of folks, all friends from meeting on a tour, threw a party at a pub one night, to keep the energy from the tour going, to remember the path we were all on. He couldn’t make it because he couldn’t get off work, so after the pub we all drove across town to the coffee house he worked at and hung out with him until closing, then we took him across the street to a twenty-four hour diner and did the party again for him. I don’t think he had many friends before this gang got together, and I think he was stunned anyone would do this for him. He beamed, positively beamed, like it the best Christmas present ever. It was just about Christmas, in fact, maybe just after. Less than two weeks later, he was the area’s first homicide of the year. There were no suspects. There were no arrests.

A few days ago, eight years to the week, someone confessed.

A girl got his attention as he left a club. I need help, she said. He was a nice guy. He had a big heart. He was a helpful person. He helped. She got in. They took a ride, ending in that parking lot.. A young man approached, said he was robbing them. The girl handed over her money. For some reason, P got out of the car. P got shot. P died.

It was a set-up. It was a plan. The young man was the girl’s boyfriend. She was playing a part when she handed over her money. Later, they broke up. She moved east, stayed with family. Years went by. And then one recent day, she couldn’t not talk anymore.

Perhaps P got out to try and defend her. We don’t have all the details, but we have enough. We don’t know if killing was in the plan, or if the plan went wrong. It doesn’t really matter. He was trying to help. It makes sense. Horrible sense. I hope his family gets some comfort and closure now.

Personal emotions aside — I’m not here today to tug on heart strings, and my apologies if that makes me sound cold; I simply don’t want to, you know, go there tonight — this unexpected news did get me to do a bit of thinking. The events of eight years ago look different now than they did eight years ago, or even eight days ago. My own stories, the stories I always want to tell and never do, look different every day too. Eight years ago I was my father’s son. Now I am my daughter’s father, and I now see my father within myself, a previously impossible viewpoint.

Applied to all recent events: I’ve been on something like twenty-five different airplanes in the last few months. I have stories from those flights, before the flights, after the flights, between the flights. I’ve taken more than twenty-five thousand pictures in the last year. I have stories from before, between, and during those pictures. Because of some of those pictures, I’ve embarrassingly been written about in our newspaper and interviewed on the local news, which leads to a couple of more stories. I’ve been to something like fifty cities this past year while touring and working and taking some of those pictures, and there are stories there, too. I want to capture them as they go by, get a snapshot from the stage while I’m on it, but perhaps the act of thinking about writing it down causes the moment to pass. The snapshot isn’t such a great record, anyway – in my thoughtless photographs, I more often than not miss the mark, cut off heads, prove that even after all these photos I’m only a marginally competent photographer on several technical levels. In my late night writing, I more often than not miss the mark, cut off heads, prove that even after all these words I’m only a marginally competent recorder of the day’s events.

Now I am home. I am going to be home for a while. I realize some of my eighteen months on the road was fear of being home, of having the time to reflect, of having the time to write. But with an unexpected email, my brain has snapped back eight years, over the recent stories I’ve not told, looked at the arc of the whole thing, given me an unexpected overview.

I need to stop trying to record the day’s events. I need to stop thinking I need to write down what just happened, and then what happened before it, and before that. This is not a blog, and this is not a journal. This is not a letter. (I started writing this with an idiotic frame of a letter to someone specific but not real, and then I deleted it and threatened to beat myself if I tried it again. Give me time. I’m stupid.) This is a story. Stories do not have to be written in the moment, recorded on the way. Stories start at the beginning.

My plan now is to go back through what I’ve written, fix some typos and stupid stuff, and start to sort out where I am, and tell the story from there.

The other morning my toddler was climbing all over me giggling and laughing; if I sit on the floor, she takes it as an invitation to use me as a jungle gym. “Hey!” I cried. “I am not a chair!” I was tickling in retaliation, and after a shriek she grabbed my face.

“Are you a chair?”

“No, I’m not a chair. I said that.”

“Are you a couch?”

“No, I’m not a couch.”

“Are you a lamp?”

“No, I’m not a lamp!”

“Are you a bed?”

“I’m not a bed.”

“Are you a jacket?”

“No, I’m not a jacket.”

“Are you a book?”

I said no, but maybe I could be.


This was published on 18 Jan 2006.
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