The day after they shoot, there is a noose tightly wound around my heart. My bed is quicksand, my blood some thick molasses sludging through my veins. My steps are slow. Everything is weighted. Everything is painful. Everything is as it is over and over again.
Having never loved someone who looks like the victims, my neighbors clatter and laugh in their apartment upstairs. Don’t they know there are murderers on the loose? Don’t they know we’re in mourning? Why don’t they bring us flowers? Why don’t they know what this means?
My husband sees me wilting and says, “What can we do to bring some light into this room? Let me feed you, let me clear the clutter.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Not now, nothing.”
My toddler puts a pretzel on his head like a hat and he giggles. The baby I’m growing flutters in the pit of me. I burst with love, and I flinch at the feeling. These little lives are fires so magnanimous, that I forget it burns to cling in this climate. But I will only hold them closer. I will only hold them up. I will only love more deeply. They will only know my softness. They will only know tenderness when they know their mama. They will know the kind of care that they deserve.
And may the enemy drown in maternal tears. May he choke on all the vomit we spend crafting these lives — the ones they steal in the heat of their indifference.
There is a young boy crying on the TV for his daddy. They loop his sobbing like a sad, strange dream. His mom says she can’t drag the image from his skull, the scene and sound of all that dying, that death.
Some people prepare to fight. I’m all fear and no fangs. I want to scoop up my family and run. I want to take them to space, to some empty island. I want to get up and go, but there is no get up and go fund. There is hardly enough money to stay. We get up and go to the grocery store, we try to feign the feeling of normalcy, of a life with no crosshairs.
The day after they shoot, my husband cooks dinner and I clean. The baby plays with blocks on the floor. We soon put our son to bed, the apartment goes quiet. Sirens crack through the air in the room.
“I haven’t felt safe in a long time,” I say.
“Like something’s coming? Impending doom?”
“Like I have to be on guard all the time. Threatened.”
He nods, and we put on a movie. When it’s over, we fall into bed. As we sleep, the next one’s gunned down.
I want to hide deep inside of myself.
Dominique Matti is a writer, editor, ruminator, and cool mom based in Philadelphia. Her work centralizes Black womanhood, and healing from both individual and societal trauma. She spends her free time napping in unconventional places, guzzling coffee, trying to master magic powers, and feeling all the feelings. You can check out more of her writing at medium.com/@DominiqueMatti