Curled up in a friend's arms in the back seat of a van, asleep, comforted, safe, secure, at peace. I can't help but replay that moment over and over again, juxtaposed against the very same point in time that held a very different reality for a man just yards away on the side of the road: yelling, anger, insecurity, indifference for his life, a push- a push into our van driving down the highway that crossed our paths with a sudden thud that woke me from my sleep. It was instantly over for him. For me, it was just another moment, as it's my story that continues on. Why?
For another person in the van, the tears flowed. For me, I went cold, wanting to cry — to release — but the tears never came. The thoughts rushed through my head: How? What? Who was he? Is this really something I am going through? Does he have children? A wife? How will we ever know? How could they do this to him? How could they be running away? Why am I not crying? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with them? Then, silence as my brain shut off.
A few days prior, I had been telling that same friend how I hadn't really been through much trauma. But I've since realized: How could I possibly believe that? In this line of social justice work, you see a lot of sh*t. I've heard the intimate recounts of victims of war, disaster, assault, poverty, destruction, and at some point, you have to close yourself off to feeling deeply. You have to grow slightly numb and look for the moments of joy in what you're hearing as a protection mechanism.
But that thud. This wasn't a story later recounted to me. I was a part of this. I couldn't get the answers. I couldn't whip out my notepad to ask the questions and learn his story. I'll likely never know who that man was — a minivan taxi driver, I quickly learned, who got in a brawl with his passengers — but who he is as a person, I may not ever learn. I can't use the disturbing moment to raise awareness for some sort of social good organization and trick myself into believing I'm turning it into some sort of good.
You want to look for the reasons why this happened. What have I learned from this? What is this teaching me? If there's some god above, he must have orchestrated this for some reason, right? But I'm trying to force myself to stop and feel. This is trauma. It's okay to de-numb and feel.
To the people in his life who loved him, I am so deeply sorry. I wish to know his name. I wish to know his passions and dreams. I wish to give you a hug, to let you know that we feel it too, and his memory will forever live on with us as well. I'm sorry this is how we are linked in this unfair world. I want to make it right but am coming to grips with the reality that sometimes I can't. He's yours, not mine, and his story is yours, not mine. But know that I grieve too.