I was driving with my friend yesterday, and the clothes that were covered in blood were still in her back seat. She had spent part of the day cleaning the blood out of her car. The look in her eyes as we sped down San Pablo was hollow, which isn’t good because the hollowness in her had started to slowly fill up with something dark and almost unrecognizable. And I could see in her face that she was replaying Saturday night over and over again in her head, just like everyone else in this city. That suddenness of gun shots. The people running and ducking. And how many people had seen the dead body hit the floor. How many people knew. How many people had been standing right there. How many people had seen it happen.
I was lucky. I had just walked away from my friends moments before it happened, heading (as usual) to the nearest liquor store. Looking over my back. Ducking behind a trash can as I watched people sprint and scream past me. The cars peeling out. I waited for the gun shots to stop, and I realized: there’s no going back there. My friends had been in there, but who knows now. So I sprinted in four inch heels three blocks down over to Somar to hide all alone in the crowd and a cup of booze.
My friends weren’t so lucky. One of my friends got sliced up by broken glass, and the rest of them were too close for comfort. He wound up getting sixty stitches all over his body, and it was his blood in my friend’s car. They had sped to the hospital, everything gushing at one in the morning.
I didn’t know as I sat at the bar, waiting for my friend before going home to try to forget despite all the incoming text messages and phone calls time stamped with bad news and more bad news. I didn’t know what had happened or who had been hurt, all I knew was that I was alone at this bar waiting to find out if everything was okay because I couldn’t go home or be alone with only the thoughts of gun shots and the fleeing crowd sitting in my skull.
At 3 am I got the call: someone was dead. Someone had died. I could hear the crying in the background as I sat in the cab with my friend going home. Who was dead. Who had died.
It wasn’t supposed to be like that. That wasn’t supposed to happen. It had been me and all those brilliant, beautiful people that grace the streets of Oakland, spilling out onto 15th street on another pretty August night. It had been so good, rolling up just to find my friends, drunk and gleeful and all together. It was the best of them, really. The best of all of us were there, just as we are at every other party. All the people who matter. Looking gorgeous as we always do, decked out to drink heem from half pints and dance in heels and flirt and then fuck at the end of the night. Music bumping. Cars burning rubber. Old friends, new friends. It was like that. It was supposed to be one of those nights. One of those parties. Another party that we could call the party of the summer because everyone was there. It was supposed to be wonderful.
I went to visit my friend yesterday. He had just gotten out of the hospital and was more coherent despite all the meds they had given him. I had stopped looking at Instagram and Facebook because I couldn’t look at those sunny pictures of a dead boy posted with sad taglines. Everyone knew T Mack. This is a fucking tragedy. I looked at my friend as he sat on his bed, no longer crying but in that post hospital haze right before the meds wear off and the anxiety of reality sets in. The look in his eye of: it could have been me. It was almost me. The look in everyone’s eye of: it could have been me, but it wasn’t me. It was someone I love instead, and now I have to live with this shit, and how do I live with this shit?
It feels easy to sit at a computer and post things like, “Help the youth in Oakland!” Perhaps I’m too close to what happened to feel inspired to examine the social paradigm that allows this kind of tragedy to happen, or whose fault it is, or what we are supposed to do now. The only thing that can be done at this point is feel pain, and then what, I don’t know. I think we’re supposed to rebuild or support each other or something, but how are we supposed to think about that when all of this has already been slowly slipping away anyways? Nothing can be the same, because nothing has been the same for a long time. All we have is each other, and all we can do is cherish that for as long as we can, before everything is gone.