She can still feel the imprint of that final hug.
She can still feel the weight of her son’s head on her chest and remembers how she cupped the back of his head and ran her fingers through his dark curls.
She still feels the final squeeze around her rib cage. She remembers her son loosening his embrace, his arms slipping from around her, before letting go and walking through the front doors of his elementary school.
She can still see that carefree smile as he looked over his shoulder back towards her before disappearing forever.
She can’t bear the thought of waking up one day and not feeling the remnants of that final hug.
She has not slept through the night since the incident and cannot forgive herself for letting her boy walk through those doors.
She just wants to close her eyes, stop feeling, and slip into eternal blackness.
Knowing that other mothers suffered before her, and still more mothers will suffer after her, with no substantial changes to gun laws, hollows her out.
Her son was murdered by an 18-year-old boy with an AR-15. His right to purchase that gun was protected by an antiquated and misused 233-year-old amendment to the constitution and a gun-loving governor.
Her son’s right live and grow up was not protected.
Over the last several days she has listened to cold intellectual and academic debates about that amendment and what it means. It doesn’t mean anything to her. It’s all just empty words and platitudes. After all is said and done, her boy is dead.
She walks into her bathroom, places two framed pictures of her son on the sink and runs a hot bath. She takes off her clothes and sits on the tub’s edge, staring at his smiling face.
She remembers the day these pictures were taken.
In one, her son is wearing his Houston Astros baseball cap and clutching his glove to his chest. His first baseball game with his father. His smile bursts through the glass picture frame and she feels a sudden pang in her heart.
Her husband took the other photo and gave it to her last Mother’s Day in a frame with brightly painted flowers. In it, her son is seen squatting in the flower bed on the side of the house, joyously pointing at a snail that he discovered. The sights and sounds of that day are still fresh in her memory. She can still see the mud from the freshly watered garden seeping from the holes in his spiderman crocks — and she still hears all of the questions about this newly discovered creature.
“Mama, does he live in that shell…. is that his home?”
“What happens if he gets too big for his shell? – where does he go then?”
She remembers telling him that the shell protects the snail and keeps him safe from harm. And that memory triggers a flood of emotions. She can’t stop thinking how vulnerable and scared he must have been in those final minutes, and how no one was able to protect him from harm.
She opens the medicine cabinet and takes out a razor blade. She picks up the framed pictures and kisses each one, tears running down her cheeks. Then she turns the pictures away from the tub to face the wall at the back of the sink.
She shuts off the water, slides into the tub, and carefully cuts open the veins running from her wrist up to her forearm. She does this on each arm. Then she drops the razor in the tub and feels it slide along the side of her hip before resting underneath her left buttock.
She takes a deep breath and then closes her eyes.