A/N: My deepest condolences are extended to the victims and loved ones of the massacre which occurred at the Century 16 Movie Theaters in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. More stream of consciousness than scholarly writing as I'm still trying to come to grips with the terrifying events that have transpired.
"They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind." -Tuscarora Proverb
Imagine losing it all.
It's 1997 and you don't understand what's happened to you.
There is no sunshine. There is no warmth. There are no bayous.
This is Detroit. The ghetto. A shanty town - a favella - of America.
And you're pretty pissed off about living here.
You don't understand why you're here. But you're in the gutter.
You've hit rock bottom. That much, you know.
Father and mother have given specific instructions.
Come home immediately after school. I don't care what time the street lights come on. You belong to us and when we tell you to do something, you do it.
You hopscotch your way home, on the cracked and ravaged sidewalk. It's not much but you're not living a fairytale anymore.
You do this everyday. And everyday, Josiah yanks your arm and drags you home, admonishing you for being so lax. Kids die here every day. The criminals don't care who you are or where you come from. If you're wearing the wrong colors, you're dead. If you're on the wrong side of town, you're dead. If you have something they want and you don't give it to them, you're dead. If you see something you aren't supposed to see, you're dead.
And to you, Josiah's words are the gospel truth. At nine, he's only two years your senior but he's always been there for you, shielding you from punishment, taking the blame for what you've done. And you think he's just so worldly.
But one day, you're all by your lonesome. Josiah always meets you in the cafeteria when the final bell tolls. But he's not today. And so, you waste no time in getting home. You run, the cold air whipping your face - tearing through your clothes, eating away at your flesh. There grass has far too many makeshift graves. Yours shouldn't be the next.
Father's out playing a gig. Mother's...well, you don't bother asking where she was. But she wasn't at home today. Not that it would've mattered. You couldn't call to tell her your brother is missing. The phone is off … again.
The lights in your home aren't, though they might as well be because Josiah is your beacon of light. Your world is black. You pull the covers over your head. The streetlights come on and Josiah still isn't at home.
They are your lullabies.
Hush, little baby. Never say a word. You didn't see what you saw ; you didn't hear what you heard.
Now it's midnight. Or maybe later. There are voices - distorted mumbles. But you're too tired, too stressed, too frightened to move. Saturday has barely seen its dawn when Josiah wakes you, jumping up and down on your bed. He points to the bandage on his arm. With a toothy grin, he tells you, "See? I told you I was a man."
Six months later, Detroit is history. A nightmare. A mere obstacle of life. You're "privileged" again, more than you were before. Bad times don't last forever but bad memories may linger. But Josiah isn't so much of a man that's he's desensitized to the Colorado tragedy. He isn't so self-absorbed that he doesn't cry when a witness recalls, "bullet casings were falling on my head and singeing my head. They were still hot."
So, I ask. Finally. For the first time, after all of these years. "What does getting shot feel like?" Of course, I've heard different accounts by different people, but many are conflicting. And I know my brother won't lie to me. Not about this.
He looks at me briefly, then averts his eyes to the bayous we've always known. The bayous that have always been our source of solace. "I...you feel like...I'd take a bullet a million times over if it means you never have to experience it."
It's more than Josiah's ever said to daddy. Dad - or 'Pops,' to him - the man who just happened to run across his son, while walking home in the night from a moderately successful gig. We don't talk about the incident...usually.
But this is an exception and mother wants to know that which her son has always concealed from her. We're eating dinner when it resurfaces.
Do you remember when we lived in Michigan and -
It always begins this way. Her son lifts his sleeve and points to the scar.
That little bastard. Why, if I could get my hands on him, I'd...I'd...
You know Josiah wants to say, "You'd prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. Yes, we know mom."
Truth be told, if attorneys were allowed to do so, our mother would have the personally execute the person responsible.
Ironically, your brother is almost sympathetic when he opens his mouth. "Mom," he begins, spearing asparagus, "That dude died a long time ago. Gunshot wound to the head."
No one speaks of the matter again. We don't ask how he possibly we knows this. We don't ask how or why this person would shoot someone who kept to himself and bothered no one. Fifteen is far too young to meet your maker, but twelve was far too young to wield a weapon - far too young to pull a trigger.
If an artist's lyrics are violent, is he promoting ferocity? Is he condoning assault? Or is he merely telling his story?
Tragedies should not be catalysts for peace. But they are. Temporarily, at least, peace is realized.
It shouldn't have taken a massacre to mend the burned bridges of a couple hanging on by a thread. You don't wonder why she's placed a long distance call from Paris ... you just hand the phone over. This entire ordeal has given you indigestion and quite frankly, her shallow breathing and broken, frustrated sentiments aren't of any benefit to you.
It shouldn't have taken a massacre for siblings to cease bickering over nonsense - the swearing, the provocative suggestions, the flicking off.
You empathize, effortlessly, for your family knows the pain.
And you all know, more than anything, the harrowing, hellish nature that uncertainty brings.