You never actually know what anyone is thinking.
If we’re influenced by the right people, we spend our lives being taught to understand, to learn from, to show sympathy for everyone we come across. On some level, this concept underlies the entirety of our society: We can all get along. I think about that sometimes, when I’m on the bus, how any given person could stab me and steal my wallet, if not more.
As of yet, none of them have.
Summer, 2003, the University District. Friday night.
At the game store, my cell phone rang. My roommate Anna, on the phone, was asking how to hook my laptop up to the stereo. And I got pissed.
That quarter, I lived with some friends in a house not far from Greek Row, a geographic outlier from every other address I called home during my time as a Husky. When my roommate called, the rest of the house was in prep mode for a party we were hosting that night for a friend of theirs, who I’d merely met in passing once or twice before. After Anna convinced me that there was no other audio solution other than my laptop, I acquiesced.
Hours later, at the party, I met a girl, one who, it turns out, was far less smitten with me than I was with her. We talked for a while, and when she said she was leaving, walking home to another, sketchier part of the neighborhood, I insisted on walking her. When we reached her door, I left immediately, heading back to the party at hand.
A few blocks from home, my phone rang again. A friend of the house, the one who’d supplied the stereo, asked me where I was. Then, where my laptop was. And when I told him that, last I heard, it was at home, still supplying the sound, he told me I should get home.
The next day, we called the cops, and they showed up to take statements and such. I learned that none of my roommates or the party’s co-hosts had even been on the same floor as the computer when the thieves—total strangers who wandered into the party and apparently jumped the back fence on their way out—snatched it and ran. Nobody offered to help me pay for a replacement, but Anna gave me a lovely pep-talk about how sometimes bad things happen, and this was for the best, because I wanted a new computer anyway.
I felt sick for the next week, and I never spoke to Anna again after moving out of that house.
Somewhere, forever lost to the ether, there’s a picture of me at 17, standing on a glacier, that I’ll never get back. Somewhere, there’s a few chapters of my first attempt at a novel I still haven’t successfully written, several tries later. Somewhere, there are memories I’ve forgotten ever existed, on a hard drive long gone.
A large portion of today was spent in the discussion of another, far worse crime. It’s not the first time I’ve lost a day attempting to dissect the criminal mind, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, given my family history, but the well of speculation is infinitely deep.
We talked anyway, though. Trying to think of how we could have prevented it, every “What if?” scenario that emerged led us to acknowledge things could just as easily have been worse, that any intervention could have had far more drastic repercussions. It’s a web I know all too well, ever since I realized that my father surviving his fateful flight could easily have led to a far worse outcome. His plane could have landed, only for him to be hit by a drunk driver on the way home.
So we take solace in our safety, even while we mourn for those who feel they’ve lost theirs. We take care of those who need it, knowing they’ll return the favor, while hoping they never have to. And we feel grateful that, for all we’ve lost, we still have so much more.