The Morning After

I found out from the BBC.

My mother says to my brother, later, “Call your parents when these things happen — that’s the first thing you should do, call your parents, let them know you’re okay.” And it really is like my mother, to come up with that kind of Rule for What to Do in a Situation Like This. And the familiarity is a kind of a comfort.

But me — I found out from the BBC Twitter feed.

And I prayed — I’m an atheist, I don’t pray — I prayed, for a brief second, that they meant Santa Barbara the town, not Santa Barbara the school. It only occurs to me now, a day later, how twisted that reaction is: please let it be somewhere else. Please let it be someone else. Please let someone be in danger who isn’t my big brother.

But of course it was there, and of course it was my brother who was in danger. And of course it was UCSB — the school my mother and father went to, the school so many of my high school classmates went to, the school my brother went to — that had been the target of a mass shooting.

So.

I texted my brother; I texted my parents. I scanned the news, frantically, trying to find some scrap of information — is anyone I know dead, is anyone I know hurt, what the hell happened, what the hell HAPPENED — 

I watched the video the shooter made.

I regret that.

It was sick, and it made me feel sick. I wondered, once or twice: is this real? Because those textbook cliches, that little Disney-villain laugh, they couldn’t be how real murderers sounded. This had to be some kind of awful joke. This couldn’t be real, this couldn’t have happened, this couldn’t have happened to my brother —

I eventually pulled myself away from my Twitter feed and went out into the kitchen. Both of my parents were out; I was alone, and I felt it, sudden and intense.

And then my phone buzzed, and it was my brother, and my brother had texted, and my brother was okay.

Which was when I finally started to cry.

So I promised myself I would write about it.

My brother came home, caught a ride upstate and showed up at the West Oakland BART station at 6:30 that evening. He was wearing new glasses, and I hadn’t seen him since December, and I said hey and glanced away and stared out the window and stared out the window.

I promised myself I would write about it.

If my Twitter feed had been busy, my Tumblr feed was even more so — furious text post after furious text post, half-true information, heartbroken sentiment. Facebook was quieter; UCSB students and alums were passing around the news that they were okay, putting up pictures of the campus, announcing a candlelit vigil.

I promised myself I would write about it.

A friend from college messaged me with an uncharacteristic lack of perky enthusiasm:

greg: hannah

greg: is your brother okay?

I promised myself I would write about it.

And in the car, my mother said something sharp about gun laws, and my brother looked, suddenly, very tired. And I thought about guns, and mental illness, and misogyny, and all the rest of the whirl of anger that had been the national conversation today; and my brother said, “I don’t want UCSB to become a political battleground. I think we all kind of feel that way.”

And me? I promised myself I would write about it.

It’s been a strange day.

I woke up this morning and #YesAllWomen was trending on Twitter and #UCSB wasn’t.

Some of my good friends, people I talk with about activism and feminism and like very much, were hissing at Internet opponents: you can talk to me about men’s rights when a woman kills six men because they won’t sleep with her, this guy wasn’t a “madman” he was a misogynist, how dare you try to derail this conversation.

God I HATE MEN KILL ALL MEN, said someone on my Tumblr dash. Which was when I started crying again.

I’m angry, and I’m sad, and I’m tired. My brother’s okay, and my brother is home, and my brother is safe. And four men and two women aren’t. And I, the selfish shit that I am, have been praying desperately: please let them be people that I don’t know.

I need a new prayer. And I’m angry, and I’m tired, and I’m sad, and I don’t know what that prayer should be.

Maybe: Give us room to breathe. Give us space to heal. Give us time to pick ourselves up and put the pieces of ourselves back together.

Maybe: Let there be action to follow words, and compassion to follow both.

Or maybe: May He who makes peace in His high places bring peace to us, and to all our people. And let us say, together: Amen.

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