To the Son of the Victim



圣罗莎 - Tagatay路在Don Jose,圣罗莎,加利福尼亚。照片ViaWikimedia Commons.

Santa Rosa, California

I met you the day your father was shot and killed. I’d been in Oakland for a pink sunrise, watching police sweep a homeless encampment, gathering what we called “string” from residents who had nowhere—yet again—to go. I felt more outraged than usual and also maybe more useful. This was journalism, I suppose I was thinking, making sure the world knew what was happening right here. I wrote three hundred words for my newspaper’s website in a café and was preparing to drive back across the Bay Bridge in brilliant golden morning light. Then I got a call.

An editor back at the office on Mission Street was listening to the police scanner and heard something unusual going on near Santa Rosa, about sixty miles northeast. Since I was already out, could I go? I could. I drove north, generalized dread already flushing cold through my veins, though I had no sense of what I was going toward. This is what the days were like, back then: waiting for something to happen, hoping it wouldn’t, getting the call, driving, always driving, toward disaster.

There were black扑打直升机从我的编辑飞行开销和混合报告:在圣罗莎的两个不同地址抢劫,三人死亡。或许只有一个人死了?也许他们是相关的;也许他们不是。有人似乎认为它与大麻有关。我一直在沿着辉煌的阳光推动,在一个方向上 - 其他日子或其他人 - 可能导致葡萄酒国家或滑雪湖。

然后这条路变成了广阔的霓虹灯迹象。我停在一个加油站买水瓶和手机充电器,从饥饿中有点摇晃。我正在重复一首歌:“Heard you were rolling in the good times out West, went to the desert to find your destiny and place . . .

I’d moved to San Francisco just a few months before to become a “breaking-news reporter.” The romance of breaking news was that you were just thrown out there, learning on your feet, somehow transforming into a real reporter in the process. I had wanted this badly, all of it: the crime scenes and fires, the early-morning wake-ups and late-night phone calls. But it turned out I hated showing up on people’s doorsteps in the wake of disaster and death. One Friday, there had been reports of a hostage situation many miles north. While the details emerged online and over the radio, I did something unforgivable in the profession: I went to the bathroom, took deep breaths, and waited a few minutes until someone else was sent instead.

The first Santa Rosa address was a bust. Or, rather, it wasn’t really an address at all—it described a long stretch of halfway highway between two traffic lights. There were a few houses and I knocked on their doors but, to my relief, got no answer. I drove on, down a road that cut through farmland, where the distance between mailboxes grew longer. There were horses and shocks of green, as though drought had never struck here. This was the kind of place where neighbors could be relied upon to say, I can’t believe that something like this would happen here of all places. Then I saw the Sonoma County Sheriff’s truck hulking beside one of the mailboxes. This must be the place.

有大仙人掌,有黄色胶带。Even as I flashed my press pass, it was clear I wasn’t going to get very close to the scene—to your house, a low, white ranch house I could see from the driveway behind the kind of padlock gate that would keep horses in. A grizzled deputy with a red beard and sunglasses looked at me with disgust. “The family’s not interested in talking, ma’am,” he said.


“You’ve got to call the press line,” he said. He was disgusted by me, and I by him. Sometimes the only thing that motivated me in my reporting was the stoic “No” of police officers and sheriff’s deputies and flacks on the phone. I pulled up nearby to wait. I fiddled with my phone, checked for new statements from the different law enforcement agencies, texted friends in New York—a boy I loved was there—and then looked up to see you, leaning on a gate and looking straight at me through the windshield.



I can’t remember what I started to say, maybe something like,嗨,我是记者,我知道今天一定是艰难的一天,但我想知道你是否可以告诉我一些关于


“I’m really sorry to bother you, it’s just that”—I was trying to figure out what to do with my hands, gesturing too much, probably—“we’re hearing reports that someone was killed here last night and I wanted to know if you could tell me if that’s true?”

To that, you said nothing; you looked at me and turned away, walking back toward the house. The cop was watching me from the car with the window rolled down. Maybe he shook his head, or maybe that’s something I’ve imagined since then.

我开车,回到第一组地址,并从沮丧的编辑器开辟了呼叫。来自家庭的人 - 也许是你? - 早些时候说话Press Democratand confirmed that a man had been tied up, tortured, and shot dead in the middle of the night. The suspects were a group of men who had mistaken the property for a cannabis farming operation—or perhaps it actually was one? Could I go back and find out? I could.

当我到达那里时,我留在车里,发动机,看着时钟并希望你不会回来。但是你这样做了,这次被两个男孩侧翼? - 谁看了你的年龄。也许表兄弟或兄弟或只是朋友。你认识到我,你几乎恳求的方式估计,好像要说,“我已经told你:我需要一些时间。“三个人走向停放的卡车。我希望我能放弃,但我忙着跟踪。



“好吧,”你说,令人惊讶的我。但当我试着write my number down, my pen ran dry. We stood awkwardly facing each other as I tried to sketch it, us just standing there in the brutal heat, your red-rimmed eyes behind sunglasses. Finally, I was ready to quit; I even shrugged. But then you pulled a pen out of your pocket, and you let me use it.


那天在圣罗莎,我想象着你讨厌me, but I now suspect you didn’t think much of me at all. Probably I was part of the collateral of your grief, the random details—chipped nail polish, oddly shaped clouds, the color of someone’s hat—that one notices in the moments before or after catastrophe. If you remember me at all, I imagine that it’s like that: a girl standing improbably in the glare of sunlight and rising dust, borrowing your pen after hers runs dry, the sound of gunshot still fresh in your ears. Regardless, you were generous to me on a day when you had no reason to be. I wish I’d been kinder in return.

Sophie Haigney为此编写了纽约时报,The New Yorker,纽约杂志,经济学家,The Atlantic,石板,The Nation,而且波士顿地球. She wasOff Assignment首次管理编辑器并帮助将字母放在地面上的陌生人列。

陌生人©2022由Colleen Kinder。通过Chapel Hill的允许银杏丛书的许可转载。