Sometimes it feels as if the universe is working against me, like in those moments when all I want is get to home, but I hit every single red light. And sometimes, the universe doles out small doses of relief like today when I just happened to have the day off, right when I thought I was going to completely lose my shit. Two nights ago I was lying in bed reading my Twitter timeline as the news broke about the attack on the Emanuel AME church. In a way it was like watching the tide pull away from the shoreline, knowing the wave was coming, but being unable to escape. The BBC broke the story first. And fifteen minutes a tweet from CNN. Within an hour it was the only thing Black Twitter was talking about, and then all that Twitter was tweeting about.
I called down to my boyfriend, “There’s been a shooting in Charleston. Nine dead. A white man went in to a church and killed nine black people.” This was met with silence. I said it again, but my boyfriend had nothing to say. I started crying. My tears sliding slowly down face, barely sniffing and kept reading Twitter. My sadness became anger. Or rather made way for my anger, because the anger had been there all along. When TJ came upstairs to bed, I said, “Did you hear what I told you? About Charleston?” He said yes. Then I said, “Why didn’t you say anything? I needed you to say something. Anything. Or come hug me.”
And then I started to cry again. But these were the real tears – the gasping, sobbing, wailing, snot smeared on your face and hand kind of tears. All the while still talking and accusing TJ of being emotional unsupportive. And this went on until TJ, cursing, got out of bed and went downstairs to sleep on the couch.
At one point in the night I woke up covered in sweat and discovered I’d been crying in my sleep. The next day at work, I barely got through the day and at one point a manager told me I had a piss poor attitude. I was impressed with my own professionalism, because I wanted to say, “I’m sorry that you read my grief as having a fucking attitude, you insensitive prick.” But no one knew I was grieving and it felt like no one else was either and so I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself.
When I finally got home, TJ was gone and I thought for sure, he’d left me. Because in that moment it felt like the worse had happened. If people could be murdered in their place of worship, ifother people could question whether it was a hate crime, or a terrorist attack, well then my boyfriend leaving me was such a small thing to happen in the world. I wandered around the house for a full ten minutes trying to figure out how we would split all of out things. When had our lives become so entwined? And then I heard him coming through the door and he was carrying two boxes: fans. We’d discussed him buying fans so we wouldn’t have to use the air conditioner.
And he wasn’t mad at me. Not at all. It was when he’d been faced with my grief, the open nakedness of it, he’d been unable to respond. Or his response was to shut down. And in a way, his response mirrors so many white people – saying nothing, carrying on blindly and without empathy.
The thing is I’m done letting them do it (him, too). I’m exhausted with carrying my grief in silence. I will not be quiet. For my own health and sanity I cannot. Grief comes in surprising forms and I am learning that it is unwise to try to force myself to avoid the way I feel. So I won’t.
May they rest in peace.
I will remember you.