Trigger Warnings: violence, death, sexual assault/harassment
Because it took me three days of reading headlines about Elliot Rodger before I could click on a single link. Because I only had an inkling of what it might open up inside of me, but the inkling was enough to know to wait. Because when I finally read about what happened, my shoulders hunched over the tiny screen of a smartphone and a small glass of beer, I wept openly while others around me enjoyed the sunshine and did everything but weep.
Because that was where I went to college. Because I knew young men who were just like Elliot Rodger and just like the men he thought women were choosing over him – muscular and tall and white and wealthy – and all of them treated me like I was nothing. Because back then, I probably wanted to be one of the girls rejecting him.
Because it took me two more days before I could write anything. Because I couldn’t respond in snappy, profound, or timely prose. Because I stumble over this. Because I’m afraid of what those men said in those online forums, and what they’re saying right now, and what they fantasize about as they lie atop their comforters in unlit rooms all around the country and fondle their cocks as though they are cleaning guns. Because they scare me so much that I don’t trust myself to write well about this. Because they scare me so much that they take my art from me.
Because Elliot Rodger wasn’t the first one. Because over a decade ago, David Attias got high and drove his car through a crowd of pedestrians. Because in my documentary film class, we watched the footage, and I saw every imaginable response to extreme trauma and violence that humans can embody, happening all at once. Because I watched a human pick up the foot of another human and place it tenderly with the rest of the body, with the rest of the corpse, right where it had snapped off at the ankle. Because other people were screaming and laughing and walking in circles. Because one might think David and Elliot suffered from different afflictions, whereas I’m finally understanding that their actions are symptoms of a much larger and all-encompassing disease.
Because these are the names that get stuck in my throat: Elliot Rodger, David Attias. Because I don’t know the names of so many people who have made life more delicious for all of us. Because I feel trapped in heartache and trauma, and sometimes the time it takes to deconstruct it and heal from it competes with and edges out the time I could take to create and love and celebrate the beautiful actions of other people. Because I’m stuck on ugly. Because Maya Angelou died, and Subcomandante Marcos stepped down, and I hardly read a thing at all about them, besides headlines. Because I read about Elliot Rodger. Because I’ve written his name down six times already.
Because men like them and the men they wanted to be were the ones who shaped me. Because patriarchy says I must be shaped by men. Because I wanted to please them and I wanted to not be ashamed of myself around them and they constantly told me, directly and indirectly, that I should be ashamed. Because I believed them. Because Maya Angelou was 86, and my Mamani is 86, and my Mamani just recently went to Iran to die there, and because I am so consumed by the horror of these men and other men, every day, so much so that I haven’t had the space or energy to reexamine and appreciate the gifts of these women.
Because if I dress like a “girl” at work, I get treated better, but if I dress like a “girl” and walk down the street, young men yell at me that they can “smell [my] pussy from all the way over here.” Because if I dress like a dude at work, button that top button, the men are threatened and agitated, but if I dress like a dude on the street, oh, who am I kidding? Because they treat me like shit either way. Because I dress up for you, and I dress down for you. Because I am supposed to please you. Because I am trying to make it easier. Because clothes don’t make it easier. Because nothing makes it easier. Because this is a culture that hates women, and I wish it was different, and I have to have hope, but we are not there yet. Because I don’t remember the last time there was a day that I was not reminded that we are not there yet.
Because it consumes me. Because I’ve read about this boy, this young, sick boy, who, even in the wake of his destruction, also left this planet too soon. Because he could have healed. Because he could have been or become better. Because I have to believe that, or else why would I even keep living? Because I have to keep living.