from “NeVer ForgeT” by Matthew Vollmer, via Ecotone:
On the morning of April 16, 2007, more than a quarter of a millennium later, the weather is lousy. I am out in it: jogging through a blizzard of stinging flakes to a bus stop, on my way to the Virginia Tech campus, where I teach creative writing and composition. The snow churns in gusts, seems never to land, fails to accumulate. Once aboard the bus, I hook my arm around a silver post, and we lurch forward, a packed crew of mostly sleepy undergraduates, whose shampoo and cologne smell perfumes the air. A sullen, chubby girl eats Cheerios from a plastic bag. Another, slowly chewing gum, types on her phone with her thumbs. I stare at the patchy beard of a droopy-lidded guy who suddenly yawns so intensely it appears he might be in danger of dislocating his jaw.
What I don’t know, what nobody else on this bus knows: two people have been shot in a dormitory on the west side of campus. These people are now dying; perhaps they are already dead. Had someone announced this news to the bus, riders would’ve surely murmured or winced or lifted their eyebrows. Some would’ve cursed, drawn the words out in slow exhalations, holy this or holy that, flipped open a phone to check the news. But the bus would’ve kept going. It wouldn’t have turned around. Nobody would’ve gotten off at the next stop, because nobody ever gets off at the next stop—somebody always gets on. Those students who were headed to the building where, in less than half an hour, hundreds of bullets will be fired into the bodies of forty-seven people, would not have recharted their courses. They would have continued onward. Even had they known, they would have hoped that the people who’d been shot were okay and that the police would apprehend the shooter. They would have remembered the schizophrenic homeless man from the beginning of the year, the one who’d shot an officer on the Huckleberry Trail, the ribbon of asphalt leading from downtown Blacksburg to the New River Valley Mall, in Christiansburg. They would have assumed—as I surely would have—that by the time we reached campus, someone, somewhere, would have things under control.