The thoughts and emotions swimming around in my head today are keeping me out of sorts. It’s as if rubber balls are bouncing around inside me. As soon as one settles, a new one pops up, startling me with another hit. And it’s nauseating. I go from tears to love to laughter to wanting to hide out and curl up in a ball. Two nights ago, a couple of blocks from my apartment, a gunman sat quietly inside a movie theater, just before erupting in a shooting spree, killing two members of the Lafayette community sitting right in front of him. Two young women, with a bright future ahead. There are still wounded, not to mention all of those shocked psychologically at the scene, and those hurting from the tragedy, loss and confusion.
When I woke up that morning, I felt off. My barista was feeling off, a pinched nerve. The cashier at the shop was off, couldn’t figure out how to bag my purchases and kept asking me the same questions. It was a weird day. But it was so hot out, I just blew it off as that. Around 6:30 that evening, some friends and I were sitting outside by the pool, cocooned in my little apartment complex, sipping sangria, munching on a Spanish tortilla, cheese and crackers, black bean hummus and gazpacho. Then the sirens began. I didn’t even notice them, however, until someone said something. I’m not sure if I feel comfort in sirens because I got used to them living in New York. I wasn’t there that long. But it seems like it should be one of my triggers, a leftover from what happened to my family seven years ago. Just like firecrackers. Or a door slamming. Or loud voices. Or hospitals. Or that consistent beeping machines in hospitals make. Or or or ….
We all went straight to our phones to find out what was happening. A “possible shooting situation at a movie theater” was all there was. But we didn’t know the details. Inside? Outside? A mass shooting? A domestic dispute? I started getting texts from friends asking if I was ok, offering me a place to stay, a refuge, if I needed it. Why, I wondered. Oh yeah, that. I should be cowering in my apartment by now, triggered, so to speak, by my own tragedy. That was weird. I wasn’t. I didn’t know what I felt. Numb, maybe? I became more conscious of the fact that I didn’t feel anything. Was this a step toward recovery? Or was it displaced emotions?
As the night moved on, we received more texts and calls. Soon we ended the night. But I couldn’t sleep. Nana was worried about me because again, normally I would be freaking out right about now. But it wasn’t because of that. I’d just probably had too much sangria. Then there was the wonder of it all, what was going on. And then there was the constant buzzing of my phone. But I was too tired to pick it up. Finally, around 7:30am, I opened my laptop to Facebook and saw who the victims were. One of them, someone I knew, a strong and beautiful figure in the community. I broke into tears. Not because we were best friends or anything, but because it started to sink in. There was death. There was sadness. There was mourning. There was anger. There was fear. And it was all rolled into one big ball. Here it was, yet again. This world makes me sad.
Because it happened in my grandmother’s living room for me, I can no longer get caught in the “oh my god, how could it happen in our town?” questioning. It can happen anywhere, at any time. So many feelings and thoughts about it all. What about justice, regulations? And the fact that our leaders focus more on gun protection than education, communication and mental health care options. There is a root, or several, to this problem, but it is consistently being ignored or covered up in lieu of an interim solution, a temporary fix hopefully lengthy enough to last until the next election.
There is also the pain I feel for the victims, the witnesses, the families and even those who may have at some point loved the shooter. He was human, though filled with hatred, anger, fear and intolerance. There is, of course, a little bit of that in all of us, though some fuel it and take it out on others. It made me think of how short life is, once again. Of my own petty issues with some. My anger. My sadness. My fears. Of how much I want to show my love and am not sure how to go about doing so since if I did it might build up and come crashing down like a tsunami. Of how scared of it I can be. Most people can’t handle that much.
For the victims, the witnesses, they will have to live with what they saw for the rest of their lives. Some deal with it better than others. But then there are those, like me, who feel like the memory of it will plague them for life. It’s not a gentle place to be. Their conversations with others will be different. Maybe they’ll get past it. Or maybe they won’t be able to handle small talk anymore. Maybe they will hide out for long periods of time, afraid to go into public places, yet also afraid to be at home. There are those who will hover over them, sensationalizing what happened, building the story even bigger, in turn looking at them differently, yet always asking them to retell the story as if it’s some sort of action-packed film script. Some of them will feel like victims for years, maybe forever. Or maybe one day, hopefully, will begin to pry themselves back out of the sadness, with great difficulty. But they’ll remain hopeful.
And there is no sense to any of it. Why do humans do the things they do? Will we ever have that answer? We are all a mix of darkness and light. And sometimes we are afraid that certain circumstances will bring out the nasty bits a little more. These events don’t help. They make us sad, angry, fearful. And we want to do something about it. We feel enraged and want revenge. We are all capable of going to depths we didn’t even know existed. An event like this is unjust, horrible, senseless. But it’s not just another story. It is also very human. This is who we are, who we are becoming. If we keep injecting fear and anger into our society, if we keep dumbing ourselves down, if we keep avoiding communication, ignoring our need for better education, this will continue to happen, and then some. This is not a movie we’re watching. This is not a video game we’re playing. This is happening now, here, for real. And it happens Every. Fucking. Day. Not just in movie theaters. Not just in schools. It is in our homes. It is within our families. And it has been going on for years. We have been ignoring it for years. We are doing this to each other. We can disconnect from the events, but not from each other, not really. We are human beings. And it is happening to US ALL. Why is it so hard for us to see? How do we become so numb? We can easily turn it off when it’s so far away. But it’s not. It’s Right. Here. So what do we do? Keep loving. Keep hoping. Take a breath before we explode. Slow down. Hug. Laugh. Dance. As far as we know, this is the only life we have. And the people in it are here as our guides. We are all guiding each other through the unknown. Nobody knows why we’re here. Or what it all means. But we are. So why the fuck are we trying to kill each other? Shouldn’t we have figured out by now that we’re all in this together? Don’t let the anger take over. Don’t give in to the madness. Forgive. Shake hands. Those petty, little rifts we have? Let them go. They aren’t worth it. Life is too short for that. Laugh it off. Respect each other. Don’t take advantage of each other. In a hurry? Slow down. Too busy? Breathe. Don’t forget to tell people you love them. Let them know what they mean to you. Vote for leaders who really give a damn, who aren’t just in it for the fame or money. Who make sense. Stand together.
So those swimming thoughts and emotions are getting clearer now. There is obviously my own story mixed in with this tragic event, the empathy with those who are suffering, with previous events, and with everyday situations, political actions and the frustration of so wanting the answers to make things better, but not knowing where to begin. Last night, I went to a gathering of friends. I cried a little, I drank a little, I hugged a lot and I danced. I danced at my mom’s ceremony because that’s what she would have done. I danced in celebration of all of our loved ones’ lives. I danced in honor of hope and love and promise. And I danced because I didn’t want to cry anymore, didn’t want the anger and sadness to take over. For seven years, I have been living with it, and it has engulfed my life. It’s time to find forgiveness. And it’s time to do something about it, even if all I can do is be there for others as a shoulder or a sounding board or a hug or a dance partner. People say everything happens for a reason. Fuck that shit. But if my tragedy can somehow get others through their own, then ok.