When we drive and the weather is warm, we have the windows down, all of them, and the wind is thunderous and constant. Yesterday, after a few very hot stops – 96 degrees at a dog park outside Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – we put the windows up and the air conditioner on.
And then, because it was so quiet in the car and we had run out of things to talk about, we turned the radio on to hear Wolf Blitzer of CNN talking to Julian Castro about the Walmart shooting in El Paso. It was, by now, about 5:30 in the afternoon, we had gone the whole day having no idea that people had been killed buying school supplies on a Saturday morning. I had been in the Walmart at Grand Forks the day before buying a new camp lantern, a Citronella candle, paper plates and a 98 cent pair of blue flip flops because I’d left mine in Grand Marais. The store was full of ordinariness and people unaware of any danger, although I walked past a display of ankle holsters and wondered why does this need to be here?
We drove on in silence, listening to CNN’s reporting – interviews with Beto O’Rourke and the Governor and Attorney General of Texas. We drove from Moose Jaw to Swift Current just listening and looking at the plains and then the slightly rolling hills and then the plains again, all golden and tranquil. We just kept shaking our heads at what we were hearing – the requests for prayers and blood, the gratitude for first responders, one speaker congratulating the police on having gotten to the scene in six minutes, and multiple statements that El Paso shouldn’t be defined or divided by this one incident. Meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer told us, the people who died were still in the Walmart, laying, I suppose, where they were shot, hours and hours later.
We’d decided 96 degrees was too much for camping so we were headed to a dog friendly hotel that a guy at the dog park in Moose Jaw found for us on his phone since ours had stopped working in Canada. The hotel sported a Chinese/American restaurant so Howard went there to fetch us dinner, it being too hot to go anywhere and leave the dog in the car. The Chinese lady there asked Howard if he’d heard about what happened in Texas, he said yes, and they both shook their heads, no other conversation needed apparently.
We had our dinner, had a cranberry and Tito’s nightcap, and read. We didn’t turn on the TV. We knew what would be there – panels of experts, interviews with survivors, reporters asking why someone would drive 900 miles across the State of Texas to that particular Walmart to kill people when there are so many other Walmarts to choose from. Prevarication from elected officials, sickening, self-serving excuse-making from people responsible for public safety, and the invisibility of the lava of grief and suffering pouring over the loved ones of people killed and injured by a young man who had swallowed hate and fury fed to him by white nationalists including the president of our very own country.
We are in Canada. It is peaceful here and that makes me envious, it fills me with longing. I feel like a foreigner here. I am a foreigner.