The Observer cried while shaving this morning. We cried all the way through our shower, tears mixing with the tapwater pumped in from Lake Maumelle. We fought back tears putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush and brushing our teeth, and spitting, and rinsing, as we tried to get our shit together to put on a brave face for Junior. He's old enough to understand moments of chaos like this now, a mannish boy of 17. But The Observer is his father, and we try, as we can, to keep our chin up in his presence. It's one of the things they don't tell you about being someone's mother or father: that they are always watching, even when you don't know it, always learning how to be a man or woman in this joyful, cruel, confounding world. So The Observer tries to keep our chin up when we can.
It was a paragraph in The Washington Post's coverage of the Las Vegas massacre that got me, on this black Monday. This was the paragraph, still so heartbreaking that even now, we have to bite down hard to stifle a lump in our throat as we type it:
"Mike McGarry, a 53-year-old financial adviser from Philadelphia, said he threw himself on top of his children as shots rang out. 'They're 20. I'm 53. I lived a good life,' McGarry told the Reuters news agency. The back of his shirt had foot marks from people who stepped over him in the crush to flee."
The Observer, who loves our boy like the air in these lungs, could see himself doing something like that. In just a few short years, The Observer will have been Junior's father longer than we were not. If Junior was in a burning building, we would rush in after him, even if there was a 2 percent chance of making it back out with him clutching our shoulder, coughing smoke, because we would honestly rather die with him than live without him. It has been that way for Junior's Old Man since the day that child was born, eyes looking around the delivery room from the first second as if he was hungry for every new experience. And so, we can see our self in Mr. Mike McGarry of Philadelphia, Pa.., doing the only thing we know how in the face of a terrifying, hopeless situation: lying prone on top of him, arms outstretched so as to cover every possible part of his body with our body as the whining bullets spark and kick dirt, and bone and blood. We thought of Mike McGarry, and cried as we shaved, and showered, and brushed our crooked teeth; thought of the good life we have led, and how Junior's life has just begun, like the lives of some of the people who died in Las Vegas Sunday night.
The Observer is tired of waking up to this American carnage. Not the metaphorical American Carnage Dorito Mussolini mentioned in his inaugural address — a lunatic, Bizarro World Abe Lincoln calling forth the worst devils of our nature instead of Better Angels. We're talking about real carnage: the prophetic red comet trails left by the meeting of flesh and lead; the words "death toll" and "shooter"; the sad photos that always emerge of things left behind as people fled from the hoof beats of death: a hat, a shoe, a stroller, washed in blue lights.
Should we blame someone? The gunmakers? The NRA? Whoever sold what appears to be a full-auto assault rifle and at least 10 other weapons to a nutcase bent on mass murder? It feels like we should. But The Observer is too tired to blame. We've blamed in the past, raged and argued, and what the hell good has it done? Not much, it seems. The carnage carnival rolls on, unabated, undaunted, smelling of popcorn and Cordite and blood.
So, like Mike, we did the only thing we knew how to do this morning. We hugged a groggy Junior extra tight and gave him a rare day off school. We put our clothes on and came to work, not really sad or mad anymore, just exhausted. Washed out. Gray inside. Bone tired. And now The Observer sits here, trying to find the end of this sentence, thinking: Maybe if I close my eyes, I'll wake up in bed, and what happened in Vegas will have all been a horrible, horrible dream. Here goes nothing.