The pain in my neck

I look back and marvel at the fact that it's been, what?, only a week since the Virginia Tech shootings, and already I can't remember where I was when I heard the news.

And this is not a short-term vs. long-term, middle-age memory clash, but a coping mechanism, the result of repetition on the mind, or the "weariness of again" as my friend Jeane so wisely put it. It's what allows us to say gloomily, "Oh, no, not again!" after the worst mass murder in our country occurs. And then, just like that,busy on with our lives.

But gloom lodges in.

I do remember turning in with a dismaying fear throughout my body. And waking the next morning with a kink in my neck, a stiffening of which I've not experienced before.

I should have cried. Crying is the perfect relief for a woman like me. But I couldn't. I was too busy stowing my fear. In my neck apparently, where it wound its way like a plumber's snake into my second cervical vertebra, my masseuse surmised. "Of course," I said, trying to pretend I knew the scientific name of my neck bone. "So, um, can you fix it?"

And slowly, under the weight of her thumbs and palms, what I feared was a permanent pain in my neck, eased.

But it won't go away completely. It's my body's way of dealing with fed-up-ness.

That's what I think. Because every time I think about how a disturbed young man can walk into a gun shop, in this screening age, and buy an automatic pistol, I still feel the kink tremble with dread. If we can't rewrite our laws so that perceptive children can't so easily mimic their leaders - both presidential and ones they really care about, the ones on their video screens -- and remedy their aggressions with gunfire, what, really, is the point?

And don't interject here with any age-old Americanisms about right to bear arms, or patriotic slogans, invented to keep us from thinking for ourselves. OK? Just don't go there.

I think of all this because just yesterday on the bus I head a man say where he'd been when Kennedy was shot, back when murder by gunfire could silence the flow of American life.

He made me remember where I was that day: in the hallway of my grade school in suburban Connecticut, outside of Mrs. Adam's room, afraid to go in because I'd slept late and missed the bus. The janitor -- sorry, we didn't say custodian in the '60s -- told me the news. He had a broom in his hands. The kind with a mop head nearly wide as the hallway.

I had another memory blackout right after the Amish killings, when, on that eve I sat stunned in front of my TV, knowing that viewing the images once is enough, more than enough, but, still, I couldn't pull myself away. But I can't remember where I was when I first heard the news. Or who told me.

Though here in Belltown, just last year, I was walking on Third Avenue when the slain women were carried out of the Jewish Federation on stretchers. That is something one never forgets. Unless, perhaps, you live in a war zone. Where, I suspect, even firsthand accounts by now are so bromidic one might need to forget even before the witnessing is complete. In order to survive.

And now, as the horrific murder scene in Virginia is moved from reality to the gutter level of televised entertainment, each new disclosure presenting new opportunities for what feels like a race to shock before the opposite team (network) scores first ...

Well, that last sentence, I am sorry to say, is about as far as my respect for that sort of news media goes.

Sanelli will read from her latest book, "Falling Awake," at Ravenna Third Place Books on May 7 at 7 p.m., and at Cunningham Hall, University of Washington, on May 9 at 3:30 p.m.

Her staged reading of "The Immigrant's Table" will be held May 19 in Pioneer Square as a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; call 292-5555 for reservations.

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