So I had another post 90% done, and was well on my way to posting it, but then fate intervened. For those of you who do not know, I graduated from Seattle Pacific University (SPU) in 2002, which is only important because of a tragic shooting that unfolded yesterday. I meet Jennifer Paulson on probably my first or second day in the dorm, and when my friends called me yesterday and said Jennifer had been shot, it didn’t register in my head who they meant, as I always called her Jenny. Jenny was the kind of girl that a mother dreams about their son meeting. She was hard working, she was charming, and she had both academic and street smarts. But most importantly, she never had an ill word for anyone. She was one of those few people that finds the good in everyone, all the time.

When I think of her in my mind’s eye, I usually see her in a food-spattered apron as she worked in the kitchens of the school. Having worked in a restaurant and knowing how much a grind such labor can be, I was always pleased to see her working in the cafeteria, which by their very nature seem to be morose. But Jenny would wear a smile that you’d swear could part the perpetually gray clouds that hung almost oppressively over the city, and it never seemed to matter how bad things where going in her life or in yours, she could find that kind world or joke that would make everything seem alright.

Two of my best friends at SPU have cerebral palsy, and one of them, I’ll call him Mr. Boarder, had a crush on Jenny. He also lived for a time with the shooter, Jed Waits. Jed was one of those guys I would never have met if not for the fact that he lived with Mr. Boarder. In thinking on it, I only have a few hazy memories of him, and if pressed I don’t think I would have said he was unbalanced, but I would have given you tightly wound. His shoulders were always scrunched and he always seemed to be reacting to something rather then acting out a plan.

When I first heard this story and subsequently discovered the details my heart broke. One reason is that in my soul I’m kind of a cynical person, but I nevertheless try every day to see the good in the world and to laugh at something. Jenny wasn’t the only person who taught me to do this, but she was one of the best I’ve ever meet at actually projecting that sense that somehow everything was going to come out fine in the end. I think it is this fact that makes how her life ended so bitter. Because really, this is one of those stories that makes you shake your fist at the sky and bellow into the void that eternal and infernally succinct question of “WHY?”

But then the part of me that is in love with movies pops into my head, and it is Agent Starling speaking to Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs that echoes in my synapses:

Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

Clarice Starling: He kills women…

Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?

Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir…

Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

Clarice Starling: No. We just…

Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?

The answer is both chilling prophetic in this case, and makes me wish that sometimes my mind did not jump to cinema when my own lambs begin bleating in terror at the night.

But at the same time, it is funny the circles this habit of mine weaves. Jed drew graphic novels apparently, and in response to Dr. Lecter I see a girl in a different movie, which was adapted from a graphic novel. She even could even have been Jenny’s doppelganger at a younger age, I’d wager. Her name is Sara, and in the movie , The Crow, she says: “If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.” This was followed up a lyric from a song written by the protagonist, Eric Draven, who has come back from the dead to avenge the brutal abuse and murder of his girlfriend as well as his own death. In fact, this quote was also one of the taglines for the movie, and it is simply “It can’t rain all the time.”

It is true that it can’t rain all the time, even in the Pacific Northwest. I lost contact with Jenny after college, which I regret. There are many things I would have loved to found out about her life, like had she traveled outside the country, which one of my current friends seems to think includes Texas. This got me thinking of another one of my classmates who passed under equally infuriating circumstances. But she did make the trek to Texas once, and in her company I took a picture, which I think Jenny would love. It was taken in San Antonio and was on the side of a large hospital. Jenny was not a doctor, but she did heal people on a daily basis. She made everyone feel good about themselves. She touched the lives of the students she worked with, and for kids with disabilities that kind of person is beyond my keen to describe. So for Jenny, I give the one gift I have to give, and I am sorry it is so little so late.

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