By Heather Pearson
Content warning: gun violence
There’s a type of crying that feels like it has no end. That it will not stop until all the water in your body, all 80 percent of you has dried up and you are 20 percent of what you used to be. I want you to feel the morning I learned one of my high school classmates had shot three others.
Every time I return home on breaks and vacations I drive past the house where he shot them. I think about how he drove down that road looking out over the ocean, like I have all my life. I think about all the facts and stats the television spouted out in the days after, the helicopters hovering over my neighborhood, the sound of gunshots caught on someone’s home security system, the way he called his grandmother afterwards, the funerals I didn’t feel I deserved to attend.
How he and I used to sit in Computer Science together in high school.
Every time there is another shooting, I am brought back to this twisting and turning inside my heart, my lungs. Yes, it is political. Yes, hold your representatives responsible. Yes, share on Facebook and talk to your friends and condemn the NRA.
But also, please stop pretend shooting me with your fingers. Please stop saying you’ll murder your girlfriend, you’re so mad. Or that you killed that test. Please stop making me watch television shows with machine gun shots ringing out. Please stop laughing about killing, about senseless death, about murder.
There is a culture normalizing gun violence that I didn’t realize was there until I found out these little things now make me fold into myself, hide, get small.
My shooting was gendered, an ex-boyfriend unable to contend with the thought of no longer being with his girlfriend. A man shooting a woman for leaving him. This leaves me without trust, always knowing the men in my life could love me and then choose to hurt me. I walk with this knowledge every day.
Many shootings are racialized, without justice. While I can empathize with the spectrum of emotions people of color feel in response, I will never know completely. But understand, reader, these reactions are there for me, for us, for others.
Universities hold small space for the Big Hard Emotions. Grief, trauma, they don’t help us to ace exams or succeed in student leadership positions. But we have to feel them, for if we repress them they still arise eventually, like the morning after reports of a Florida shooting are released and I am just trying to go for a run and work on thesis and it feels like the sky fell down, suddenly, and I am crushed breathless.
Walk carefully, please, reader. Treat us with love. The personal is political, don’t you see? You don’t know who understands these issues deeper than skin deep, somewhere between the heart and the soul. But we are here, reader, and we hurt.