As late as this past Sunday, nobody knew where 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington was, three months after she disappeared from the Metallica concert she'd been thrilled about for weeks. I took one kid with me to Wendy's after church before we zipped into Target for a pair of jeans for him (poor kid, he was down to three pairs without knee holes), and as I opened the door I noticed yet another of the FIND MORGAN posters that have covered the area.
When the story hit our local paper in October of last year, about how her parents had set up a reward fund, and how Metallica had donated to it, and how her family and friends were determined to get her home, I remember looking at The CEO and saying to him, sadly, "They're not going to find her." And he looked back at me and said what I hadn't: "Not alive."
As of yesterday, we know where Morgan is, and some part of me wishes I still didn't know, so I could pretend that maybe she would still come home under her own power and not in a box.
I really, really wish I hadn't read all those Patricia Cornwell novels. Every so often, my brain skitters off into wondering what Morgan's last hours were like, and I don't know whether that's due to empathy, or to horrified rubbernecking, or whether I'm just examining The Fear again. Probably all three.
If you're female, you probably know The Fear more intimately than you'd care to acknowledge. These days, it's less for my forty-year-old self than for my daughter, but there it is: that tickle at the back of your neck that says, "Somebody is looking at me and thinking of destruction, because I am female." The Fear keeps us from walking down dark streets alone and leaving our doors unlocked; sometimes The Fear keeps us from wearing that really hot dress or speaking to strangers. Because You Never Know. For most of us, The Fear will stay ghostly.
For some of us, it won't. I'd like to change that. I don't know how. All I can do is raise my boys to respect women, and my girl to respect herself, and vice versa.
Morgan's family loved her very much, and she loved her family. What's kept me going today is the memory of a choral piece I sang in college, a setting of a couple of verses from Song of Solomon:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine armHere's a link to a recording of it on youtube: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart," by Sir William Walton, recorded by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge. I'm American enough that I find it a little creepy for choirboys to be singing this one, although that doesn't usually bother me. I think it calls for the passionate sound of women's voices rather than the purity of boys' voices. And this performance is a little slow and bloodless, too - I always felt it was a tempestuous piece. But the only other recording I could find had serious pitch problems, so St. John's it is.
For love is strong as death -
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it,
For love is strong as death.
Hold your loved ones close. Pray for the missing. Pray for the ones that miss them. Hold The Fear at bay.
For love is strong as death.