Tragedies like the massacre at a gay nightclub Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida—one which has been named the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history—can render us simultaneously hollow and distended with emotions that have no name. If you want to, here is a place to try and name them.

Right now, I don’t know what else to say—but maybe the last few lines of Amy Hempel’s seminal short story “The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” might somehow approximate it better:

I think of the chimp, the one with the talking hands.

In the course of the experiment, that chimp had a baby. Imagine how her trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign her newborn.

Baby, drink milk.

Baby, play ball.

And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace, forming again and again the words: Baby, come hug, Baby come hug, fluent now in the language of grief.


Contact the author at

Image via Getty.