I met a killer the other day. I think I may have, at other times, talked to killers, but not that I knew about. No one else has ever introduced himself to me as a killer.
He was an older man with long fingernails. He never quite smiled, and he didn’t have good teeth. He was looking at my art on exhibit in a town about an hour from my house. He was making notes and taking photos with his phone when I approached and offered to talk about the work, if that would help him to understand what he was seeing.
I didn’t know anything about him then. The piece of mine that he was looking at is called “Versus I – IV.” It’s about the gentility, faith and vibrant color I found in Mexico one Easter, as compared with the scorch of death and injury from one particular incident back in the States when I returned.
The killer saw the massacre in the four panels, though it is an abstract work. He was, it seemed, drawn to the “darkness,” as he called it. I explained that I had been tinged by the repeated stories of the Virginia Tech shooting, and had created the piece to reflect on that — and my sweet time in Mexico just days before.
But killing is what you’re interested in, right? It’s what people are always interested in. Who died? Who was hurt? Years ago, when I was doing PR work for the American Red Cross, that’s all the media ever wanted to know. Though they didn’t say it this way, the message was “give us the ugly, the gruesome.”
Next post: How poetry helped me to learn about war.