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This is my entry this week in the mini-season of therealljidol, Exhibit B. Please read and vote for the many fine entries. This was an intersection week, and my patner is kajel. We got to choose from two topics: She chose the topic "I Wake Up Strange" (please read her entry, too). I chose "Oh, Lord, we're not talking _____ again, are we?"

Instead of the usual gym sweat and adolescent uneasiness, this time the locker room feels menacing. This time I don't even get the chance to fumble with the locker that never opens, because I feel her stare boring into me. Those flat, emotionless brown eyes, her thin snake-like smile. As I stare at her in hate and disgust, she gives back nothing. She is a black void, sucking in the emotions of those around her. Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing, the voices of girls half my age (but not here, because here we are ageless) say, "You better not make her mad. She'll give you a necklace." And I don't have to ask what kind of necklace they mean. (A bloody necklace.) I wake up, clutching my throat.

In more than a decade of transcribing cable news, this is my first real news nightmare. In 10 years, I've seen anchors linger over details of horrible things -- things I wish did not happen in the world where my son was born. Tsunamis and tornadoes, serial murderers, hate crimes, children driven to suicide. And not once did any of those horrors follow me into sleep. Why is this time different? Is it because her crime was so gruesome? Because she latched onto a highly suspicious self-defense claim based on unproven allegations of domestic abuse?

Was it because the anchors I transcribe hung so gleefully on every detail of the trial coverage: from the minutia of the bloody crime scene to her lurid accounts of her sexual relationship with the boyfriend she killed? But why now? Why after all these years? Why her?

Slowly, slowly, the truth forms (faceless at first, like a haunting of a thought). I think I know why. I've known people like her. And that is what haunts me.

I don't like to think of it, but I have danced close to tragedy. I once dated a guy so impervious to normal human conscience that he lied boldly about everything. Once, I watched him insist, in righteous anger, that he had not stolen from his mother a video camera that only the day before he told me she'd given him.

I have known people who smiled and smiled and were my enemy; who stole from me; who betrayed me and my family. It has made me more cautious. I do not befriend my next-door neighbors. I require a background check and references before considering a babysitter. While I tend to be friendly, or at least cordial, with my neighbors, I bolt at the first hint of strangeness.

As much as we like to think we are safe from evil; that if we are only good people, if we follow our religion faithfully, if we try to better ourselves, if we inspire others, that we will not attract bad things, deep down we all know that's not how it works. We bargain, we fool ourselves, but we all know that every one of us is potentially as close to a terrible fate as we are to the nearest person who means us ill.

Watching so many hours of media coverage, I have heard people again and again ask the wrong questions. Why did he let her in? Why did he let down his guard, when even his friends knew she had been acting strange: stalking him, sneaking in his doggie door, even slashing his tires? But I don't ask that question, because I understand him better than I wish I did. Like him, I have been too quick to grant second chances to people who did not deserve them. I, too, believe in redemption.

And knowing this about him, I believe she played into his weakness. She told him what he wanted to hear: that she was sorry; that she was changing her ways; that it would be better from now on. It's happened to me and to people I know, and to people you know, as well.

I hear you demanding details. You want to know who did what to whom. But really, what is the matter whose credit cards, checks and cold medicine were stolen, whose bills run up, whose CDs hawked, whose trust betrayed, and who was left with permanent scars, physical and emotional? I'm tired of those stories: of telling them, of hearing them repeated, and of choking back words for those whose stories I have no right to tell. I'm done with it.

Take from me the stories I do not want, the memories I do not claim, the news I cannot bear. Cast them into the void that could and should exist; the pit into which we must throw these horrors. (Into which we will cast, as well, the most repugnantly grief-loving anchors). Over it all, we will stretch a sign -- as stark as the truth we must now own and live -- "Do not feed the monsters."

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( 36 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 3rd, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
Amen to this! I have notes for a blog post (all my blog posts seem to be in note form at the moment, who knows when I will actually get around to WRITING?!!) about this very thing. Why do we need the details?! I can imagine you're sick of it. I would be too... at least I can just choose to click on by or change the channel :/
Jun. 3rd, 2013 03:40 pm (UTC)
That's the hardest part: not being allowed to turn it off. Fortunately, my husband and son are always available for hug breaks, and my cat for petting breaks, when I need a little recharging during a particularly awful transcription job.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 03:41 pm (UTC)
'Do not feed the monsters.' This is my favorite line. It is something the hubby and I talk about a lot when something happens. Thanks for a wonderful intersection.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you for suggesting an approach that pushed me to go in a much deeper direction.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
I agree with the sentiment of this piece. It gets horrific and terrifying to listen to all the bad news out there. However, I also believe it's a necessary evil, if you will, because it allows us to be aware that things like this exist and to tamper our naivete and be cautious about who we do allow into our lives.

I believe in the good part of human nature. Unfortunately, there is evil out there that takes severe advantage of that.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
It's not the reporting that gets to me; it's the nights when there is no real news and they're just bringing on talking heads to spout conjecture. The genuine news reports are far less offensive than the wallowing in the news that some shows engage in.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 04:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, I slightly misunderstood then. That bothers me too, but I have the luxury of being able to turn it off.

It seems like those nights of talking head conjecture have replaced judge and jury too. Which is scary.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
That's OK; that's my fault. I wanted to take this in a more dreamlike direction and tie it in more closely with my own personal experiences with people who engage in sociopathic behavior. I didn't want to just go into a rant about what passes for cable news (though trust me, it was tempting).
Jun. 3rd, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
Very well done.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jun. 4th, 2013 12:41 am (UTC)
My family followed this case religiously and I honestly grew sick with all the attention it got and that they gave it.

I really loved this piece. The last line was especially moving.
Jun. 4th, 2013 01:27 am (UTC)
Sadly, it's not even over yet, since the jury couldn't reach a decision on the penalty. There's a trial date set in July, and there's still a lot of stuff on certain shows about it -- conjecture on what the jury will do, what the attorneys will argue, etc. Honestly, I wept when I realized it wasn't yet over.

I'm glad you liked this piece. I tried to make it more than just a rant.
Jun. 4th, 2013 03:57 am (UTC)
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
Thanks. I needed that.
Jun. 4th, 2013 04:33 am (UTC)
Excellent. Really timely post that I intend to share...
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you. It's sad that it remains timely.
Jun. 4th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
It is unnerving when a story strikes close to home or the bad guys seem like someone you know. Your story emphasized to me why I prefer to not watch a lot of the news on TV.
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:31 am (UTC)
I don't watch the local news for exactly that reason. I get enough badness from doing my job.
Jun. 4th, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
I'm with myrna_bird-- this is precisely one of the reasons I don't watch television news, though newspapers are getting to be almost as bad these days. Very little relevant news, and a lot of fishing for lurid details-- sometimes to the point of going to other states/countries to find new and bloodier tragedies.

I'm wishing you could get another job, perhaps in medical transcription rather than news transcription. Because I'd hate to have no choice to "turn the ugliness off."
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
There's a lot of medical transcription work here, but I'm not sure I'm the best person for it. The terminology would be mostly foreign to me. Instead, I'm trying to find more freelancing writing gigs. Wish me luck!
Jun. 4th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
I don't understand people's need for those details, either. Don't we all have enough problems without digging into everyone else's, too?
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
From the gleeful way some of the anchors act when they're delivering these "news" items, I could say some very uncharitable things about what they may be getting out of it.
Jun. 4th, 2013 11:24 pm (UTC)
I rarely listen to the news because they mainly cover All The Bad Things. We need more good news out there!
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:34 am (UTC)
I watch "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" every night, just to clear the palate. :)
Jun. 5th, 2013 09:54 pm (UTC)
I totally get this! The hubby worked in the TV news division for about a decade, and these are the kind of things that would drive me crazy-- sensationalizing things in order to just MAKE news.
Jun. 5th, 2013 10:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you!!! I was beginning to think that this piece was leaving people cold, but it was important to me to NOT do the thing that I was accusing the tabloid-leaning journalists of doing. Even though this case reminded me of people who had done horrible things to me and mine, I didn't want to wallow in those details (either of the murder case or of the personal stories of people I've known). But the somewhat lukewarm response has made me wonder if I should have offered up more details than I did.

What did your husband feel about working in TV news?
Jun. 5th, 2013 11:58 pm (UTC)
Where I work, we have relevant "newsclips" aggregated every day and there is an expectation that we should at least be aware of what's in them. A lot of it is...well, not quite like this story but still pretty awful.
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:34 am (UTC)
I feel for you. It's not pleasant to have it right in your face and not be allowed to turn away.
Jun. 6th, 2013 12:56 am (UTC)
I totally avoid mainstream media, and I think my mind is much healthier for it. *hugs*

I think the 24 hour cable news channels are to blame for a fair bit of it - gotta fill up all that time and bring in the revenue for the advertisers somehow.
Jun. 6th, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
Exactly. And also, apparently, people are tuning in for this stuff.
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