Something That Should Have Been But Was Taken Away Unfairly

By Francesca Morizio

I’ve only known one person who was killed in a random act of violence.
She was a professor of mine when I was in undergrad. My accounting professor for two semesters. She taught me how to do adjusting journal entries and how to remember which columns debits go in. She was a wonderful women; she used to bring us breakfast, sometimes. Mini muffins from Whole Foods and Nilla Wafers. She was kind in a class that most kids didn’t want to take but were forced to to get that diploma. I don’t think I ever went to her office hours; I doubt she remembered my name after I left class.I think I found out she had been killed, like I do for so many news stories these days, on Twitter. Sitting in my house junior year, probably on that dingy old futon in a room with cracks in the paint and a chill in the air because we didn’t want to pay too much for heat. Or perhaps that’s the idealized version of how I found out. I might have been sitting in the backyard on a warm fall night drinking wine by a candle. Or maybe I was cooking dinner with my housemates in our tiny kitchen, making red sauce. I can’t really remember.

I do remember an overwhelming feeling of sadness, the kind that settles into your soul and makes your limbs harder to lift for days. Sure, I had known people who had died, but this? Murdered? That’s a narrative for TV shows and novels, not this sleepy part of town, next to the Embassies. It shouldn’t even happen, to anyone. But then suddenly it’s staring you in the face, ripping apart a life you barely knew.

What do you say to anyone, after?

I had to walk past her office a few times a week to get to class. When I walked by it, the day after, the floor was already littered with cards, notes, tokens of remembrance and appreciation, flowers. Her office looked that way for a long time, until they quietly cleaned it all up and someone else moved in, I think over the break between semesters the halls were silent and we had all had time to come to terms with that the pile of papers at the end of a hallway was what we still had of her. They let it sit for a while, though. We all needed it that way.

They put a black book in the Atrium of the building where her office was. I wrote a note in it. I can’t remember what I wrote. I honestly didn’t know what to say.

Her mother came to her memorial service. We all crammed into the arena on campus to hear the Deans and a Rabbi say a few kind words about a kind woman. But what do you say? How can anyone say anything to match what life is? What a life cut too short was and could have been? How do you talk about hopes and dreams and plans in the past tense? She wanted to learn to speak Spanish better. She had a standing appointment at a nail salon every week. Who called the nail salon to tell them? Did anyone? Or, when she stopped showing up, did they simply dismiss her as an unsatisfied customer? Did they Google her name to see if anything had happened after they called her cell and it just rang and rang and rang? Because I can’t stand the thought of anyone thinking ill of her and, if I could, I would go and tell the salon, even though it’s been years.

How do you talk about the tomorrows someone should have had?

Words fail at their given task. You can’t. There isn’t a tense for “something that should have been but was taken away unfairly.” Even if there was, I could never use it. It would be too overwhelming, to think of things someone wanted to do but never can.

They set up a memorial fund in her name, a scholarship for accounting students. I don’t know how one applies for it, or if, when you get that thick envelope in the mail and clasps on the back from family and friends in congratulations, you find out why this fund is named after her, about who she was and what she did and how she lived. I would like to think so.

I hadn’t thought about her until today. Someone mentioned something that lead to something else that landed my mind here. Funny, how thoughts work. You start in a ballet recital hall and end up in a classroom at 9:55 am every Tuesday and Friday for a year. And that sadness, that weight, comes back, as if it never left. I can’t remember how her voice sounds. I can remember things she said, her mannerisms, but her voice? That escapes me. It’s more like an echo, but mixed with someone else’s, dusty and filtered.

Some people say everything happens for a reason. That’s bullshit. That’s for people who can’t deal with the reality that sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s a cheap excuse because they can’t deal with the realization that the universe, that life, is harsh and cold and sometimes just sucks. Sometimes there is only bad. That doesn’t mean that random good things don’t happen either, or that evil always wins, no, not that at all. It’s just that sometimes things happen and there is no cosmic cause or motive for them, one way or another. We all, against all odds, exist, and that is a miracle in and of itself.

But that, it didn’t happen for a reason, to teach someone, anyone, some specific lesson. We aren’t all lectures, examples to be made. And it’s horrible and sad, but there is no way that anyone can tell me that happened “for a reason.” That’s belittling her life. If anything in that story happened “for a reason” it was that that women lived a good life and taught a bunch of 19-year-old idiots something about accounting.