A PRAYER IN NEGATION
Eve pitter-pattered in purple shoes towards her classroom on the first day of kindergarten, when another world revealed itself. In this other world, a concrete wall did not fortify the elementary school. A police officer in sunglasses did not guard the main entrance under a sky as dark blue and icy as dead lips. Eve did not wear a bulletproof backpack.
Exhaust fumes from cars and trucks in the parking lot did not remind me of the stench of gunpowder. I did not envision how effortlessly a young man with a rifle strapped to his back could climb up the front gate and leap down the other side, black boots pounding. I did not picture this man running towards the cafeteria, where a symphony of children’s voices echoed.
No, the police officer did not caress the handle of the pistol. A burst of screaming laughter did not make me flinch. I did not almost unravel when Eve turned and waved, smiling with a missing tooth on the bottom row, dimples denting her cheeks. The bullet from an AR-15 could not tear a wound in her chest the size of the orange in her lunchbox.
Eve’s white shirt did not resemble a surrender flag. No, the bell did not blare like an ambulance siren. I did not regret lacking the money, time, and knowledge to teach her at home. Under my breath, I did not curse this version of America. Eve had not asked, after she had first tried on her backpack, If the bad man kills me at school, can I get buried by the playground?