September 11th, Katrina, Hiroshima, Columbine. She remembered these names because she is the very same as every other soul with whom she has ever crossed paths. Their names trigger an instantaneous recall in the mind of all who hear them spoken. The eavesdropper at the next table over sees the tidal path of destruction in the wake of the monstrous hurricane as quickly as the one being spoken to directly is taken to a scene of smoke-infused sirens and the crunching of metal. She too knew these names by heart, for their tragedy made them unforgettable. Humanity’s insatiable interest in misfortune made her remember. This same compulsion that all have to memorize the ugly, to highlight the miserable, is the same force that eclipses the world’s view of the good, and so while it made her remember, it also made her forget.
She hoisted her fifty years out of the chair at the sight of a young couple in their teens and tenderly made her way to their corner of the coffee shop. It was to them that she pleaded for her theory of the world to be false, and it was, but she could not understand why. Her words painted the two a story of a young girl who learned how to avoid a drunken rage at age four. While mother was swallowing what hurt, stepfather became the monster hiding in the closet, and she spent each night in that top bunk of hers praying that the doorknob would not begin to turn. But then she heard of Columbine as her adolescence melted into adulthood, and Aurora, and Newtown, and her opinion of the world was set. She apologized to the incredulous couple for society’s inability to give them a solid and proper foundation from which to brace themselves and grow. She confessed her bleak hopes for the youth of the world to be appropriately raised as human beings rather than deranged psychopaths.
What she did not openly declare, but the boy and girl could see, was that she believed love was a myth. She believed childhood was a horror for all, and that life was largely void of goodness, filled instead with morbidity. They tried to quell her fears, telling her of their own childhoods that were filled to the brim with compassion and merriment, but she was steadfast in the world that she had chosen to see. Or had she really been the one to make that decision? When the universe continuously chooses to broadcast the good, the bad, and the ugly, but mostly the bad and the ugly, there are lost souls like that of the woman in the coffee shop that will never come to learn the error of their perception. It is not that humans crave disaster, or that they take pleasure in the misfortune of others. It is simply the fact that, for what ever reason, they are interested in the unfathomable catastrophe, and so that is what they show themselves.
When she exited the shop that night, the woman entered a world that she saw to be losing a great battle to the evils of society. Her world of war was her own, and rather unfortunate, but who could blame her when all she saw after her childhood of struggle was more of the same? If a foreigner were to visit Earth, their only introduction being a seat in front of the nightly news, they would not feel very inclined to extend their visit. But, turn that nightly news into a thriller novel, and from the comfort of his home far away from all the “yuck” of earth, I’m sure it would be a page turner.