>A Trip to The Murder Box

>There’s a plastic file box in my closet full of papers from Victims Services, my mom’s taxes, paperwork from the sale of her condo, extra funeral programs, and other stuff I can’t part with ever ever ever unless-the-house-burns-down ever. I call it “The Murder Box.”

In Murder Box, there is also the booklet I was handed at midnight the night I found her, when we were huddled together at my grandma’s house, after the police station. They’d sent a counselor to come talk to all of us. I remember thinking that everyone was incredibly nice to us. At the station, the cops had brought us burritos, which I couldn’t even imagine eating. I may have even hugged a few. Cops, not burritos.

So this lady came to the house really late – maybe there’s a graveyard shift for that sort of thing. Trauma doesn’t take a break, after all. She gave us these little spiral-bound guides. I was reminded of Beetlejuice’s Handbook for the Recently Deceased. There’s stuff like “Helpful Coping Tips,” and “Practical Considerations and A Guide for Survivors When Death Occurs.” I cannot overstate how much I relied on this guide to do my thinking for me, and thank my lucky stars this didn’t happen in 1892, or in Panama…or Do-It-Your-Damned-Self Texas, for that matter.

I’m flipping through it as I write the memoir, trying to recall my mental state – no, trying to inhabit that state, which will be difficult, considering I burned out most of those fuses in the days following. Whatever synapses still fired in that tiny corner of my brain were used to extinction three years later, at the trial. To this day, when there’s something to be alarmed about, I smell smoke coming out of my ear. Hi ho.

There are scribbles all over this thing, in blue and black ink. Phone numbers, names. Underlines, circles. Check marks.

There’s a section I didn’t get around to, but wish I had. “Dealing With the Media.”


Children already suffering from the trauma of crime are often retraumatized by exposure to the media. Children often lack the means to verbalize their emotions and may be misinterpreted by both the media and the public. You have a responsibility to protect the interest of children at all cost!

Re-read this passage, but substitute “children” for “people.” Really, when this sort of thing happens, there’s no distinction.

I wasn’t egregiously misrepresented by the media, but you try to sum up everything your mother was and meant to you and how her dying the way she did affects you – and do it the day after you found her that way, over the phone, to a complete stranger – and not even William Butler Fucking Yeats will do it justice.

I swore I’d never try to talk about my mother again, except in this book, which has taken me five years to mash together in a sort of “this means something!” obsession, and which I’m STILL not convinced will adequately represent her. Or me, him, them, us, you, it. I called the reporter up the day the article came out and yelled at her.

When my book is published, who, I wonder, will call me up to tell me it is undignified, disrespectful, inaccurate, and poorly written?

It won’t be anything I haven’t already told myself, day after day after dee-diddly-doo-dah-day.


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