She Always Brushed Her Teeth

Hello, lovelies.

I have neglected the blog lately not because I have nothing to write about, but because there is too much. And writing feels so petty. And what does it accomplish. What does anything accomplish?

So here we are.

I have so many thoughts about the recent killings, and I have my opinions on solutions like everyone else, but for now, a heartbreaking moment of connection.

About a week ago, there was a clip of Amerie Jo Garza’s stepfather talking to a reporter on NPR, crying as he spoke, grasping at narrative.

She was the sweetest little girl who did nothing wrong. She listened to her mom and dad. She always brushed her teeth. She was creative. She made things for us. She never got in trouble in school. Like, I just want to know what she did to be a victim.

She always brushed her teeth.

That gutted me, and I spent the next several minutes sobbing harder than I had during this entire ordeal.

A few days later, our little Socially Engaged Buddhist group met online, and our facilitator referenced the exact same line.

What is it about that sentence?

In a different context, it might even be funny. Some joke about a guy being dragged down from the locked gates of heaven, yelling, “I always brushed my teeth!”

Is it the clash of the mundane with the profound?

Is it the conflation of obedience with the Goodness? Practicality with morality?

Is it that we all can relate to it, down to the feel of the brushes on our living gums? That we ourselves avoided it, whined about it, that we were worse kids than Amerie? That we could, if we chose to, be reminded of this little girl every morning, every night?

Is it the amorphous agony of hearing this man try to understand the incomprehensible? He wasn’t trying to paint a picture of his daughter for the reporter; he was searching for meaning, for an explanation. Here are the facts – how can it come to this conclusion? How could this happen to her?

It’s such a simple question, such a standard accessory to any crime against an innocent victim that we barely notice when people ask it. She always brushed her teeth forces us to consider it again, puts us face to face with the horror of loss and injustice, makes it real and specific in its universality.

It’s a piece of instrumental music that leaves you in tears without knowing why. It draws us together like a manifestation of our interconnectedness. We bear witness to all of it – the love, the pain, and the confusion.

You can leave it there, with that man, with all of the people who loved all of those children, with all of the people who loved the victims in Buffalo, in Tulsa, in Ukraine and Syria and Yemen and anyone who has ever lost anyone. You can sit with it and let it break your heart open.

That may be enough for now.

2 thoughts on “She Always Brushed Her Teeth

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