My Senior Year English teacher looked like Ashton Kutcher. He walked into the classroom late one day. He turned on Sufjan Stevens’ song John Wayne Gacy Jr. and told us to listen to the words. I was young enough that I didn’t know how young I was, still teasing with a shove, flicking my pencil between my fingers, focusing on whatever trivialities were most important to me. But this is death, murder, pedophilia. This is what is hidden in the walls. Maybe my friends had heard these things before, but I hadn’t.
The song stopped and he asked us to write about our feelings.
I think about this moment a lot. Here is something horrible for you. This is a natural disaster. This is the way of human. This is our behavior at its worst. Tell me how that makes you feel.
As with most good music, most good writing, most good performance, I couldn’t think of any words big enough to summarize the feeling in my gut. This twisty feeling. Don’t you wish you hadn’t heard that, don’t you wish you’d heard it sooner. How did that bad feeling get inside me? And you think, maybe, if I could describe it, I might be able to get it out.