Passive

You run your index finger up along the smartphone’s screen, focused on finding tweets to which you should reply. Social media demands only short bursts of attention from you. Thirty seconds of passive interaction seem possible this Sunday.

Then a photo, the photo, rises on the news feed. You’re startled, yet it still takes you a moment to realize the pale skin and grim countenance form a familiar face.

His red-rimmed eyes stare deadened from the police camera’s harshly lit capture. Are his eyes red because he wept? Were his tears released by regret, or fear, or anger?

You turn the phone off – leave it turned upside down on the kitchen table.

Later, you won’t remember the words you now search for in the morning newspaper’s pages. The headline’s inky black, funereal print leaves gravity on your hands.  You clutch the paper. Tangible. Proof.

As you read, your stomach hollows except for the push pull of twisting knots. Your chest tightens until suddenly your body forces a gasp, a reminder to take in oxygen.

It will be many days before you don’t need those reminders to breathe.