An Essay on Murder by Joyce Chmil

Murder. That word evokes so many different thoughts. You might hear the word murder and think about something you might read in a Stephen King novel, where murder only happens under the most bizarre circumstances (and, for some reason, it only happens in the state of Maine).
You might hear the word murder and relate it to something that happens to actors and actresses on television shows like Murder She Wrote. one week, you see an actor or actress lying dead in a pool of blood. The next week, you see the same actor or actress sipping a martini on a rerun of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island.
Or perhaps when you hear the word murder, your mind turns to more graphic and realistic depictions as you see on shows like NYPD Blue or CSI Miami. You might hear the word murder and have visions of vivid scenes from a movie where you see waxy grey body parts strewn awkwardly inside chalk lines and splotches of darkened red blood splattered on rugs, walls, and sidewalks. You see close-up shots of the victim’s horrified face frozen stiff with her eyes still open.
Maybe when you think of murder, you think about the way it is in the courtroom: tragic images blown up to a size that is three times larger than life and projected onto a screen so that anyone who missed out on the gore at the original crime scene could get their fill.
The word murder may elicit different thoughts for you. You might think only of the victim.
You wonder about her last moments on earth. What was going through her head when she saw the fists or the knife or the gun? Did she beg for her life or pray for death? Or maybe both? And if both, when was the moment that made her change her mind? You wonder if she saw her life pass before her eyes. You wonder if you were part of that vision of her life.
You wonder how the killer could be walking the streets or eligible for parole, while you are serving a life sentence of memories that, when evoked, trigger grief and pain.
Thinking of murder can make you not want to think at all. You try to block out everything that has become a trigger for memories of the victim.
When they play Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” during oldies night on the radio, you change the station because you don’t want to picture her dancing to that song at your junior high school dances. You don’t go to see the remake of Freaky Friday because you don’t want to recall that you saw the original with her. You avoid driving past the elementary school when you visit your hometown because you’re afraid you’ll see a group of young girls giggling on the playground and memories of the two of you doing that same thing so many years ago would resurface in your mind.
When you hear the word murder, you may not want to think or feel. You turn off every ascending pathway in your nervous system so that the outside world can no longer penetrate through to the inside. You numb your heart. You shut your eyes. You close off your ears. You turn your back on people you love and on the people who love you because love requires feeling. You transform yourself into a hollow stone statue filled with murdered memories.

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