“What are you going to do about it?” The man is really shouting now. He points at three of us sitting quietly across the room. “They keep on shooting and dying.” I am not looking at him but looking slightly down and simply nodding my head. I want to stand up and just yell. I want to scream at the top of my lungs until there is no air left to create sound. “What do you think I have been doing asshole?,” I want to yell. I spend every day trying to figure out what more I can do, how else I can have an impact. I already work eighty hour weeks and leave before the sun comes up and struggle back in the door long after it has retreated for the night. I have given you and this community what is left of my crumbling soul, I have nothing else that I can give.
There are gym windows above his head. I stare out at them, wishing I could escape his wrath. He is a parent and I know the son that he lost. He has every right to be mad, there are two more innocent lives that he must shelter from the storm. He needs help. I know that he needs help, but so do I. We need each other, we all need each other but no one here gets that. Today is about blame and responsibility.
These meetings are a waste of effort and I grow tired of them. Some politician will come in and remind everyone about how much they have done to help the crime and violence problem. They look to us to support their claims, although we each know that their “efforts” are just talk and the end result is absolutely nothing. The impact is none at all, their effort cannot do much. A fly cannot possibly move an elephant yet these fly’s want to take credit for trying.
The uniformed chief next to me speaks first. He explains that we use data to help deploy resources to areas that need then, that officers walk the streets now instead of driving up and down with windows closed and eyes hidden behind dark glasses. He says that we talk to people now.
All of those things are true, yet it hasn’t changed. We do walk around now and talk to people but they don’t talk to us. They don’t trust us and they don’t trust each other. Here if you are heard saying the wrong thing to us and your name will be shared quickly with those who do not like that you chat with us.
A community opens its door to everyone. When I was a kid, the back door was never locked. The mothers, all of the mothers, would sit and listen to the yard to hear what kids were doing and to seek retribution when they heard one of us wrong another. More than once I was corrected by another mom or dad on the block for my violation of our neighborhood rules for the way we treat each other. They would not do that now. They could not do that now, it would be disrespectful toward the kid. The kid who decides what respect means and uses his 9 to communicate the decision.
I look back at their faces and see the fear. It looks like anger and hatred, but that is exactly what fear looks like. Fear and anger are the same. I cannot get angry at something that holds no sway over me, that I am not afraid of. But if I fear you, then you have power over me and that makes me angry. They have no control and they are angry.
So am I. I am angry every time I look at the lifeless eyes staring back at me from a child whose bright future came to a dark end on a cold filthy street for no reason. I am angry because that same street is empty of life, no witnesses, no empathy for the family or guilt for the failure to stop it. They will come here and be brave and bold in accusation but out there, they cower and hide. They avert their eyes but I cannot.
They leave shaking their heads and muttering about how useless we are. That is the first thing that they would say today that I agree with. That is what I feel. This is why so many days I have to close my door and hide so that I can just break down. The tears will come for maybe a half an hour then just stop. I have no idea when they will come again. I don’t know what images trigger them, but I do know why. It is because I am helpless. I am a tool for a broken system. I am a broom left to clean up whatever mess is created. But even a broom needs a hand to help it. There is no magic here. The broom will sit quietly in the corner until someone, anyone, steps up to use it.
I am tired of feeling this way. I am tired of not sleeping and feeling the guilt of a hundred innocent lives and countless more who have yet to suffer but I know will. I am tired and weary when I leave. My shoulders sag and I feel as if I can do nothing but stagger under the imaginary weight of all of them.
These are the days that I don’t just have thoughts when looking outside this dirty and disgusting broken window. These are the days when I just wish that I could jump and not feel it any more. I am too afraid to jump. I am afraid and I am angry. I cannot look out the window anymore, I just close my eyes and wait for the pain to stop.