Considering the events of today, the continuance of this story is distressingly apropos. At Virginia Tech, 33 people were killed and 29 were wounded in a massacre that left the assailant dead and few clues as to his motives.
There are facts that suggest that the rampage was stoked by the embittered heart of a jilted lover. This… this brings back memories.
After a summer of working at J.C. Penny (sigh…), I returned to school ready to tackle the intricacies of turn-of-the-century Spanish literature, the Kreb's cycle, and the Federalist Papers. I had forgotten about my troubles with Maggie & Neenef. By that point, I had also forgot about the stages of mitosis, which I was supposed to have memorized the previous semester.
As I found out later, Maggie and Neenef's summer experience was more rough than smooth. Their many fights predictably culminated in their eventual separation. So, the next time I saw Neenef, he was a shell of his former self. No longer the threatening, barbaric thug (in his intimidating 5'6" 130 lb frame) I remembered from last year, his demeanor had been pacified. In fact, he seemed dejected.
But I was still angry, and I wanted him to continue hurting. So, I was cold. I barely said hello, did my best to avoid him. Yet, I knew he wanted to resolve things between us. He was looking for an anchor in the sea of desperation that had crashed in all about him. But, I left him alone and I savored the experience.
Sometimes I think I could have saved two people's lives if I hadn't been selfish. They say you're not supposed to blame yourself for things like this. But I do regret. Neenef once told me that, after getting a bad grade from one of his professors (and fearing the inevitable backlash from his parents), he wished he could kill his professor. I thought he was joking. I really thought he was joking. God. There was a lot I could have said or done to prevent what happened that day, but instead, I acted like a spoiled brat.
There was a school dance the night previous and apparently Neenef had seen Maggie dancing with another guy. First came jealousy, then came the shotgun. No one, not even his roommate knew he had it, and everyone who heard the gun shots thought they were something else--a ball being kicked against a wall, an appliance hitting the ground.
The evening after the dance Neenef invited Maggie to his room by instant messenger. A few hours later, a commotion built up around the dorm rooms. Ambulances had pulled up to the dormatories, their sirens silent. No one knew what was happening or to whom it was happening. Eventually, the hubub confessed that Maggie and Neenef were involved, but it wasn't revealed what had happened to either of them.
For some reason, Janae Leafers, Nandani Sonand and I were eventually sequestered in a room in Trowbridge to speak with the school's president. The girls were confused. I was confused. None of the students had any idea of what was going on. The president walked into the room, more pale than usual. Preempting our expected questions, he started, obliviously struggling with an impromptu performance: "I have no idea how I'm going to have to tell a student's parents that their daughter is dead."
Because of the president's tawdry delivery, it didn't immediately set in for the girls. I expected sobbing, but instead Janae said, in an unperturbed manner, "Oh, well I didn't know that she died." She didn't even realize how perfunctory her response was until I let escape, "Oh my god, they're dead."
They wailed. They grabbed on to each other, in a desperate attempt to remain standing. It was a veritably sad moment, and, yet, I refused to let a tear slip. I walked away. I vaguely remember hugging anyone--if, indeed, I hugged anyone at all--on my way out of the building. I do remember seeing Aimee Topacio huddle on a wall, crying unto herself. For some reason that memory stuck more than the others.
I'm not sure why I wouldn't allow myself to evoke emotion that evening, or thereafter. I still haven't cried for their deaths. That's not to say I didn't mourn. I missed a chemistry exam (which the asshole of a professor refused to reschedule--it was a school of about 1200 students; everyone should have been affected) in order to attend Maggie's funeral. Her wake the previous day had been closed-casket.
Neenef had shot Maggie twice, then shot himself once. She was 19, he was 20.
Nearly 8 years later, and the memories of my indolence still haunt me. I like comic books. However, I didn't act particularly heroic when I should have. But really, I just need to cry about it… and I'm scared that I never will.