I'm home now, back in San Francisco. I've been back for six days now. Three days of hiding out and reeling. (Thanks to my beloved Dave for letting me hide in his closet, 'cleaning' all day Saturday.) Three days of just reeling.
Things I keep thinking about:
1. I wish I could have stayed.
The kids still needed weeks and weeks of love and tiger masks and being read books and having their stories listened to.
M's superior coloring skills, and equally superior team coloring skills (left handed, sometimes, to make sure you could both reach your obligated vine leaves and super monkey costume elements). His breakthrough being-read-to posture: right thumb in mouth, left hand reaching up to hold your left ear tightly (sometimes pinchingly), as if you might somehow wriggle out from under him and drift away. And his utter destruction of my safe string of kid questions.
R: "What do you do before you go to bed? Have a snack? Brush your teeth? Do you take a bath at night or in the morning? Some kids say prayers before they go to sleep. Do you do that?"
M: "Yes, sometimes cereal. Yes. I take a bath at night."
And the last answer, he launches into unhesitatingly, and without introduction...
M: "Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the lord my should to keep if I should die before I wake I pray the lord my soul to take. And god bless my mommy, and my little sister and my daddy. (As an aside to me) He dead. He got shot."
M will remain tugging tightly, distraughtly, reassuringly on my earlobe for longer than expected.
I think I responded so speedily to 826's request for help because I felt so hopeless after the tsunami in Southeast Asia. We'd been to beaches there earlier in the year. The resort I wanted to advise my aunt to take her small children to, recommendable after sneaking through their exquisite pool system, turned out to be a hot news photo because of all the bodies in the exquisite pool system. The exquisite pool system was still so close in my physical memory, the almost too warmness of the water, the deep blue tiles, the thorn in my foot from beach grass, my heart beating fast at our illegitimate bar presence, the heat of walking out the front doors of the resort and skulking down the maintence road to the beach. Paradise unfurled. Not swept clean, but swept into a decaying pile at the bottom of a jungle mountain. And nothing useful to do.
What I did in Houston was small. Small in stature, small in time, small in impact.