Yesterday, the usual calm and quiet on my street were pierced by the sound of gunshots as the man next door, upset about the finalizing of his divorce shot his ex-wife and her daughter inside their apartment.
The Roommate and I were already out of the house when it happened, sometime before 9 am. Our other roommate was home and awoke to the shots firing from the gun. Around 11, I had a voicemail from a reporter from the Post asking about the shooting on my street and a simultaneous text from The Roommate asking to please call him, something had happened on our block.
At noon, I sat and watched footage on my phone of police cars lining my street and bodies being wheeled out on stretchers, miraculously still alive, my apartment in full view.
I was due back in Astoria from Manhattan around 3 pm but couldn’t bring myself to go home, even though the shooter had been taken into custody by then. I wandered around the city in a daze, thinking of all the possibilities. All of the what ifs. Wrong place at the wrong time. My roommate leaving for work, the scent of his cologne trailing behind him. Me heading out of the house, the apartment door shutting with its familiar slam. How close we might have come to running smack into a man with a loaded gun who would soon storm the stairs next door. Their apartment and our apartment share a wall as the buildings on my street are all connected. What if what if what if.
I went to a yoga class and struggled in the first few poses as the instructor asked us to check in with our bodies and I thought, my body. My. Body. I was stunned that it was still breathing. I was overcome by the fact that it might not be. I thought about my neighbor, an older woman I’ve surely seen taking out the trash on occasion. Her daughter, she must be the one who often starts the car in the driveway. She is in her 20′s. I cried through most of the class.
I let myself in to my boyfriend’s apartment. I put on music so I wouldn’t feel alone. I took a shower. He walked in a few hours later with a pizza and open arms and I clung to him, inhaling the smell of his shoulder. I didn’t want to let go.
Astoria, where I live, is an incredibly safe New York City neighborhood. Old Greek and Italian ladies saunter along the sidewalks, on their way to get cheeses and fish and bread for dinner. They’ve been living here since the 50′s. In the summer, their husbands all sit on lawn chairs and smoke cigarettes and drink espresso and eat Greek pastries. There’s a daycare on the corner and the children often walk by my apartment, all in a line on their way to the park, giggling and pointing at squirrels. I go jogging all the time, at all hours of the day and have never felt the slightest bit afraid. The man who owns the bagel store lives a few houses down. I see the Spanish women who work at the laundromat shopping in the supermarket. We are a secure, safe, sweet community.
Right next door to me, right through the wall.
It makes me wonder how a man like that can get his hands on a gun.
It makes me wonder how he could feel that he had no alternative but to shoot his ex-wife and daughter in the head on a cloudy Monday morning inside their own home.
It makes me wonder why he felt he had no other choice, why he had no one else to help him, why why why how.
It makes me cry in yoga class to feel my muscles stretching and to connect with my breath because you just never know, do you?
My neighborhood. My home. I’ve been there for over six and a half years.
And there are blood stains next door.
And I just cannot take that.