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In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

November 22, 1963

The night of the assassination, a man and woman begin to date.

The young man, nineteen years old, tall and thin, hair gelled into a duck tail, always smiling, exposing a front left incisor chipped from a long-ago fight with a sister. Always a cigarette between two fingers of his right hand. Always talking, won’t stop joking, won’t stop laughing.

The young woman, six days short of nineteen, back home from a failed attempt at nunnery, short and petite, dark brown hair swept into a French roll, light blue eyes peering from behind cat-eyed glasses. Always watching. Always quiet, lets the young man do all the talking. Always a cigarette between her fingers, too.

That night, they do not succumb to the shadows the images cast. The queen on the plane weeps, still wearing her pink suit smeared with blood. Children dazed; they will barely recall their father’s embrace.

The night of the assassination, the couple goes to a dance hall. This was their president—young, handsome, Catholic like them. He promised them Camelot. But still, they dance, joke, flirt. An incipient budding romance trumps all. In the midst of life we are in death, says the Book of Common Prayer. But tonight, in the midst of death we are in life.

The night of the assassination, they begin to meld but they don’t know it, can’t see it. Pieces of their auras leap and jump like charged particles and land on each other. What’s around them gets pulled into the mix, too. A whirlwind of particles whips around them, wispy strands of a nation’s grief and mourning, unseen but just as real as the dancers, the musicians, the empty beer bottles on tables. A whirlwind that twirls as fast as the dancers, thick with energy and movement and vitality, faster and faster with each drumbeat. The young man and woman laugh and spin, unaware of the creation of this new thing. A new couple emerges from the mix, rises from the primordial mud. Later they will create my sister, my brother, me.

The nation’s darkness will leave its imprint upon them. The grief of their families has branded them, too. They won’t be able to escape the darkness. They have no idea how well they will know death.


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