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If I Had Stayed in Ohio

I would have been just down the road when a man was shot in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. I would have heard of it, I’m sure. I would have because I watch the news and would, still, if I still lived in Ohio. That day I would, perhaps, have been living in the home that I would have, then, lived in my entire life—the one that I never owned a key to because keys are unnecessary where doors are unlocked—the one that was the neighbor to the woman I was a neighbor to my entire life—the one who was not my grandmother but was both like and so unlike the woman who was my grandmother who warned me of men and anyone else who looked unlike me or unlike her and would, as a ritual lock, unlock, lock her doors so she and her cats would remain safe inside the doors that still felt locked every time they weren’t.

Maybe I would have thought of the bus stops that couldn’t be built in Beavercreek. The fear was that the routes would bring people from West Dayton—a part of the city more black than Beavercreek is white, which seems improbable. Would I have remembered how the town had plotted, had stopped the building of bus stops by making the requirements too rigid, too expensive? The stops must have heat! Have air conditioning! Have cameras to keep us, to keep them, safe!

I would have wondered, I’m sure, why they would shoot a man who was shopping in the Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Why they would shoot without warning—take aim and shoot and kill a man who held a BB gun he intended to buy, which rested, like the toy that it was, on his shoulder. I would have heard of the woman who had a heart attack, who died, trying to get away from the shooting. Her heart hid a defect that would seize and silence when startled. I would have heard of her child who drowned two years later.

If I had stayed in Ohio, I still would have thought about the bridge in the town below, over a river next to a large house. The one high school kids would go to late in the night, deep in the fall or the middle of the summer, to sit by the water— to sit still enough to see if they could hear the cries of a baby who was a ghost and had been for more than a hundred years. I would still have thought about how some say it was the baby of the mistress of the mayor, some would say it was the baby of a servant, some would say it was the baby of a slave. The woman is said to still weep from the banks as she looks for her lost child. It was a story anyone would know if they were from that town in Ohio.


CHRISTINE SPILLSON teaches creative writing and literature at Salisbury University in Maryland and is a graduate of the nonfiction MFA at George Mason University. Her work has been listed as a “notable” in Best American Essays and has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Boulevard, Crazyhorse, Diagram, The Rumpus, and Portland Review.


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