Because he had a gun he got off easy. Whatever portion of suffering he was served in this life is over, because he saved a bullet for himself. He could exit the nightmare he started whenever he chose.
He will not be forced to contend, like the fathers of the children whose lives he took, with the closet of Christmas presents that had been lovingly selected for the expression they would elicit on Noah or Sofia or Anthony or Emily’s face.
The ravages of sadness will not deepen his wrinkles or grey his hair. He will not use, like those parents in Connecticut will, the college fund he started six years ago to special order a coffin. He will not think—in a removed way, as if this is happening to someone else—about how coffins that size should never exist in the first place.
He will not find himself one year from now—like those mothers who are still struggling to understand—in a circle of cold, metal folding chairs in a church basement hearing choruses of “there is nothing you could have done” and know it is true, but know it is also not enough.
After the sorrow becomes less piercing, he will not be twisted into gruesome shapes by the jealousy he feels toward those other parents whose children were spared. He will never be haunted by the faces of babies gurgling in super market checkout lines, at tiny handprints in steamed over winter windows disappearing like a ghostly hello from his little Madeleine or Tommy or Jesse or Alyssa.
Because he saved a bullet, and he had a way out.
Twenty years from now he will not—like those weary fathers in Newtown—happen upon his wife staring out the dining room window and know that she is thinking again—as she does from time to time when she thinks no one is watching—about their little boy in his final moments, wondering if he cried out for them like he had those nights when the nightmares were bad and he rested his head, damp with sweat, on her shoulder and she rocked him back to sleep. Remembering how they assured their little boy that monsters aren’t real, how she made him say it with her until his breathing evened and the flush left his cheeks and his head grew heavy on her shoulder. Knowing she is thinking how wrong they had been.
No, because he saved a bullet, he is spared the agony of having tiny pieces of his heart ripped out with new force every day of the rest of his life, like that mother who each morning will walk half-awake and out of habit to Jessica’s room to wake her for school only to realize afresh that she is not here.
He will not be haunted like that other mother, who will remember mostly the way she sighed loudly over her coffee mug this morning how she longed for one day when everyone could get out of the house and into the car on time. How she wished she said, instead, lets play hooky, lets eat chocolate cake before dinner and build a fort in the living room and stay there forever with her little boy’s sweet chocolate cake breath filling the space between them when she tickled the soft spot under his arm.
No. No he will be spared all that anguish. Because he had a gun.