I was sitting by a window at my library job, early afternoon, and heard a half dozen fast pops in a row, then a half dozen more. Then sirens. I later read that a Jeep had chased down a rented truck a block away. The driver of the first car was shot twice in the back while running from his truck, then shot another half-dozen times point blank as he lay on the sidewalk.
Two days later a 17-year old was arrested for the murder. He was also fingered for three other shootings in the past week, plus a shooting last summer where a three-year-old got a bullet through the arm as he napped in a daycare apartment.
Was the 17-year-old one of the kids I knew from my library work? No, he wasn’t the library sort. He’d been lost on the streets for most of his life.
A co-worker tells me, the next day, how his 18-year old son has slipped a cog. He was a perfect boy all through high school. Then his parents split. The teenager was quarantined with his dad. Something snapped. The father had to ask for help when his son started punching him in the face. Did it in front of the police.
The boy got sent away, and seemed to straighten out as the rest of us hunkered down. But then he had to leave the facility he was in early, because of Covid protocols. He stopped taking his new meds and stole his dad’s laptop and phone. Broke his ankle trying to run away, but refused help and chose to be homeless.
The son of my wife’s co-worker started hearing voices, facing down hallucinations. An intervention was needed to keep him safe. My co-worker spoke about how certain mental-health problems arise at a certain age. It’s the luck of the draw. My wife’s co-worker wasn’t ready to look into cause-and-effect. She’d been dealing with enough this year, including a parent’s death and a daughter’s impending divorce.
What happens to us? How fragile are our minds, our sense of morality? How hard have the upheavals of the past year, on top of lifetimes of upheaval, hurt us all? There are a multitude of ways, singular and societal, in which all of us need to care for ourselves and for ours.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.