I went to the grocery store today.
I told my kids I loved them before I left, just in case I got murdered while I was there. I went with my husband, because the first time I went to King Soopers, I needed to not be alone. While we walked through the aisles, I pondered whether it would be better for us to stay together or separate. Being together felt intuitively right, but I would hate for both of us to get killed if we were close together, then the kids wouldn’t have any parents.
It was the least crowded I’d ever seen it. “It’s because nobody fucking wants to be here,” I said to my husband. He didn’t answer. But it was right to go, wasn’t it? I mean “we can’t live in fear and we won’t let the terrorists (foreign or domestic, usually domestic) win.”
We went into the nearly deserted bakery and looked for chocolate croissants for our daughter. The man working there, Gary, said they didn’t have them yet, but he could go into the back and drizzle some chocolate on top for us? It wasn’t necessary at all, but I was moved by his offer and accepted with gratitude. I fought back tears as he walked away, reminding myself to say, as my husband had for the past year, when a deadly pandemic was the only threat to the grocery store employees, “Thank you for being here.” You know, now that there were two threats to their safety.
Not that there always haven’t been, it’s just that now we remember that we could get killed at the grocery store. Or the gym. Or maybe the dentist. Of course we always could, now we just remember that we can. We won’t remember every day, of course. Yesterday I had a great day because I forgot that I might get murdered while I was out.
We thanked Gary and finished our shopping, and I noticed how calming and enjoyable the music was—beautiful orchestral versions of pop songs, a less tacky version of Muzak. I wondered what an eerie juxtaposition it would be to hear symphonic Taylor Swift as a backdrop for gunfire.
We exchanged witty comments with the 19-year-old-ish-looking bagger and I wanted to also thank her for being there, as though her employment and double life-risking was some kind of brave civic duty and not an attempt to make a living as a super young adult woman.
It wasn’t until I left that I saw the display I had missed when we walked in: a memorial with names and #BoulderStrong right out front. I inhaled sharply and got myself together as I walked past the family with the two little boys who just walked into the store. I wondered if they had thought about tactical choices they might make if they needed to run into the employee doors and exit out the back. I wondered if they had internal musings (confrontational fantasies, I used to call them, but both words inappropriate right now) about how maybe one of them might just hurl themselves at the shooter, screaming, unleashing rage and asking him “How dare you fucking make us live in fear and be afraid to go to the grocery store? What right do you have? Go fuck yourself” and maybe he would be caught off guard and drop the weapon because it’s not like he was really a trained marksman and then maybe a mob of civilians who have had enough would just beat him to a pulp. They probably didn’t have those thoughts.
As I pushed the cart to the return spot, I found myself saying a prayer to God/The Universe/The Angels thanking them for keeping me alive while I shopped, but then I told Them never mind, I don’t really believe you protected me because I don’t really believe ten other people died because you didn’t protect them.
“There by the grace of the complete and utter fucking randomness of the Universe go I.”
We got into the car and it was a few blocks before I realized Sia was singing “One Million Bullets” and then my husband turned it off.
We went to Costco today, and the garden center, with our children, who were anxious as usual, but my teenager was doubly so, because she knew what happened and my nine-year-old doesn’t (yes, I usually tell them these things before they hear them elsewhere, but I rolled the dice as there were only two more days of school and maybe just maybe nobody at school would talk about it and I wouldn’t have to give her one more reason to be terrified) and so I had to hold onto my oldest tightly as we walked around. I exclaimed with delight about all the whimsical fairy garden accoutrements and wasn’t it wonderful that we were out, where people were shopping hopefully for plants, where it was springtime, and there were kind people who let us pet their dogs. “People are good,” I repeated to her like a mantra as we walked around. We bought things we didn’t need at Costco, because, it’s so good to be back out, isn’t it, and look we got the very last Baby Yoda squishmallow, they’ve been sold out for months!
But we dropped them off at home and unloaded our purchases, releasing the lady bugs we bought at the gardening store along with the promise of hope into our back lawn. Then just the two of us went to King Soopers, because why did the gunman not go to our store, anyway? He lived right across the street, practically. Why wasn’t it our store? Why did he drive 25 minutes to that King Soopers? So of course I couldn’t expect my daughter to set foot in that store, not after she knows what happened and also that the killer attended her high school just three years before she set foot in there, masked and terrified, for different reasons but maybe all the reasons.
I didn’t get killed at the grocery store today, or the gym yesterday, or the gardening center. Tomorrow I will wake up happy and hopeful and ready for a spring break mountain excursion, because I’ll have forgotten again that we could all die today. We’ll change the song from One Million Bullets to Bird Set Free, and we’ll open the sunroof and let light pour in.