Proms and Honeymoons

A movie reel

Nemo (Jared Leto) and Elise (Sarah Polley) have just been married. They are on the way to their honeymoon. Traffic backs up and they are stopped in front of a gasoline tank car. The have a wonderful life planned until the tanker detonates.

The explosion kills Elise and leaves Nemo with burn scars on his face. Later, he stands in front of some photos of Elise. As he pulls away, you see a silver urn as a shrine for her in his study. It was a very powerful moment that ties together different parts of the story.

This variant of Nemo is an example of one of the worst honeymoons one could imagine.

Years ago, I was driving home from Lafayette, Indiana to Fort Wayne on Indiana 25. I passed a boy on a moped also driving northeast. For some reason, I was watching him in my rear window.

Before I got too far, the boy turned left into the path of the car following me. The 13 year old boy, William, flew through the air and landed in the berm. I stopped and ran back to where the accident was. The boy was surrounded by a huge pool of blood. I didn’t want to believe he was dead. When the neighbors came out, one covered him with a sheet.

The police warned me to be careful because after seeing an accident like that, I would be more at risk of having my own accident. I could see their point: I could be distracted by the horror of it. I told the police was looking back because I thought it was a dangerous situation.

I didn’t realize it at first, but the driver and passenger of the car were to teenagers on their way to their prom. Such an awful prelude for what should have been a happy occasion.

The local newspaper published a photo taken after the accident. It had the two teenagers in the foreground and the father of the boy at the side of the frame. The photograph won an award.

Nemo and Elise’s honeymoon is one the versions of Nemo Nobody’s potential life. Mr. Nobody (2011) has different lives and most are full of pain. The lives that he reports are torn by crisis or disaster. A journalist (Daniel Mays) is puzzled by so many contradictory lives. His interview ends with the tape runs out.

Some of the events of life are horrible. Nemo’s honeymoon was cut short. The couple on their way to the prom were just planning to have a pleasant day. They all were faced with events turning in an unexpected direction.

Sometimes the tape is torn. When there’s no way to splice it back together, somehow the recording continues on. Sometimes it’s stronger and sometimes it’s weaker. Sometimes I have tears in my eyes and sometimes the tears in my tape are difficult. Even when I weep, I can realize there is still a ways to go.

Little Kindnesses

A clockThe COVID-19 pandemic makes me think deeply about my mortality and the mortality of the people I love. Making it to the next birthday seems more of an accomplishment now than last year. I don’t know what will happen between now and December. Who that I know will have become sick? Who will have never recovered? How will I deal with so much grief?

I think about what to do while I’m at home. (I won’t say “stuck at home.” It’s a privilege that I have a home.) Fortunately, I’ve got projects to keep me busy. I can focus on them more intently if I’m not thinking about going out for groceries, planning my next trip to Fort Wayne and looking for the best gas price.

With heavy feelings so infectious, it’s easy to forget the humanity of the people I don’t know. But, it is more important than ever to recognize my neighbor as like me. The one who lives in the next apartment or the stranger who comes to the store at the same time as me. The neighbor that is the “other” I don’t trust. In this crisis, there is no “other” in the eyes the coronavirus. I don’t know their names, who their kids are and whether putting food on the table is a burden. But, they are all facing the same end as me.

Unity in suffering.

It’s more important to me than ever to do small kindnesses for the people I meet. They might be hungry, angry at the people stuck inside with them, lonely for human contact that they’re trying to distance themselves from. I don’t know what they face, but I can be confident that it is hard. I can acknowledge their burden with respect and not add to it.

I’m alone in my house, but I don’t feel lonely. I am busy and can talk to a person or two each day by phone. It is kind for someone to take or return my call. I try to do the same.

The mathematics are against us. Italy is an example of the nations a few days ahead of us that is suffering badly. Others countries that have been taking stronger measures appear to be keeping up. I want to not add to the suffering in my country. Being willing to do whatever I need to is a way to do that.

If the guidance I get is not based in the epidemiology and science, I can be confident that ones providing that guidance don’t value my life or the life of my loved ones. I don’t have time for that.

Why I should not work in a slaughterhouse


Last week I found that I had a mouse. I put out a trap for him. He ate the peanut butter, didn’t trip the trap and left a lot of “souvenirs.” I put up a couple new traps under my sink. I put honey on one of them.

I was watching a movie when I hear some squeals from my kitchen. I looked under there and found the mouse trapped with it’s back broken by the spring trap.

It took me a minute to come to terms with him still being alive. I felt he was frightened and looking at me.

Finally, I told myself that I’d already committed to killing it, so this was just part of the process. After a couple of minutes, I did dispose of the mouse, but I was very hesitant to do that.

If I was working in a slaughterhouse, I would have this internal conversation over and over. Not a good career choice.