I am the mother who hears the news then
furiously drives, parks her car wherever, and runs.
I saw myself running up as close to the entrance
as I could get, pressing against the barricade
until the cops put out their arms
and told me to stop.

I stood in a line of parents facing the school.
The door burst open. One by one, kids ran out.
With fine-tuned homing beacons they
found their parents and jumped into their arms.
On both sides of me children reunited
with their moms and dads, fiercely-
as if years had passed.

I waited, my eyes fixed on the open door.
Waiting for my angel, the love of my life,
to come running towards me and jump
into my arms.

Then the flow of kids stops.
No one is coming out.
All of the parents, with their children safe
in their arms, are turning towards their cars,
tears of relief streaming down their faces
and into the apple-smelling hair of their
six year-old daughters and sons.
I look back at the door. Empty.
It is closing. There are no more coming out.

I suddenly realize that I am her.
The one who no one ever wants to be.
The mom who waits and waits
pressed against the barricade
watching the children pour out,
not seeing the one who belongs to her.
I am the one left standing alone.

I will not be standing alone for long, however,
for the sheriff is walking toward me.
I do not want to be with him;
he does not belong to me.
I back away from him.
“Go away,” I say.
I would rather swallow dirt
and have my legs cut off
than hear what you have to tell me.

But then: “Mom! Mom!”
a familiar voice yells behind me.
I turn and see him with a bandage on his forehead;
a medic has her arm around his shoulders.
My son! The one who belongs to me.
I fall to the ground.
He runs to me and jumps into my arms
shaking and sobbing.
I kiss his soft cheeks, cry into his hair, and breathe in
what is left of his innocence.
We are here on the ground for two minutes
until my bent knees go numb on the pavement.
I look at his face, press my palms against his cheeks.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes,” he says.
I stand up with him still in my arms
(how it will be all night) and start walking
to the car to take him home with me.
I look back over my shoulder at that landscape of horror,
and I see her: the one who is pressed against the barricade, waiting.

She is the one who will be waiting forever, not me.
The sheriff walks towards her in slow motion
to tell her the words no mother ever wants to hear.
She backs away from him.
She would rather swallow dirt.
She turns and stumbles dizzily towards her car,
her arms heavy with the weight of emptiness.
She is pretending to be like the other parents, like me.
Yet the sheriff is on her heels.
How will he tell her the emptiness will never go away?

(c) 2012