Elizabeth stood at the steps of our apartment stairs in California as the rain drenched her small body. Her gray eyes followed the water droplets and the lightning that was shooting off in the sky. She watched as if the lightning were the very wrath of Zeus himself as he battled the darkness in the clouds.
“Elizabeth?” I said. “Come back. You’ll be cold.”
She stood in place and tried to catch a water droplet in her hand, trying to make it stay round. Elizabeth looked sick- extremely pale- as if she hadn’t seen the sun for years rather than a single week. Words don’t come out of her anymore- neither does obedience. You couldn’t pull her away from the thorn of a rose unless you physically done so. But she wouldn’t fight against you. She would just stare- just stare with those gray eyes of longing at whatever she was looking at.
I had to walk down the stairs and carry her back up into the warmth of our apartment- which I know she doesn’t like much because it’s not anything like her old home.
It is probably because she smells her mother here every time someone makes coffee next door too close to the window. The rest of the family had gone weeks without homemade coffee because it aggravates her- makes her hide underneath furniture like a little turtle who is afraid of a storm… and stuck inside of a storm she is indeed.
Elizabeth’s mother, Ms.Whitman was my mother’s colleague -a teacher who once taught at the same neighborhood high school. All the kids loved her, even the most reluctant of students. She found a way to become one of them all the while maintaining the professionalism she must. They loved her- she loved them to the point where she called them all her “other children” when talking to Elizabeth. Her adoptive daughter was happy just five months ago- before she turned seven years old. What happened to those red rosy cheeks and pink lips? What happened to that laugh and twirls of a wannabe ballerina? I will never understand why the world teaches of tragedy to the youngest children.
One school day, on a Monday which everyone dreads of reliving, everything was normal until the clock struck 9:54. Then a lockdown was called over the speakers.
Gunshots were fired.
Elizabeth’s mother ran to hide all the students in the pod, clearing their desks of any visible items and lining all their backpacks underneath the computer counter. She turned off the lights and hoped for the best for her students. I know she would, but I think she also hoped that Elizabeth would still have her mother.
But the shooter wasn’t mentally insane. He had a goal- a hate crime towards her and his other teachers because they didn’t seem to truly care. So in revenge, he reached into his backpack and pulled out a gun.
Then, he went into the chemistry lab , one of the rooms right next door to his most hated Algebra class. He knew that the door to the chemistry lab was broken, and never locked. Going to the other side of the classroom- he picked at the lock with a paper clip and twisted the handle.
He got into the pod. She was huddled with several students when it happened. When they saw the intruder the students screamed but Ms.Whitman did not. She looked straight into his eyes and called his name.
“Alex...you are capable of ...”
But the will to revenge was strong.
Stronger than the gentle call of his name.
So he pulled the trigger and shot her straight in the brain.
When the news depicted it all- they said he’d been playing too many violent video games. They took pictures of the blood on the floor- her blood on the students. But none of them said anything about how many people could’ve stopped this from happening. Nobody said anything of how no one ever encouraged treatment for his addiction. Nobody did anything when his friends left after he opened up about his mental health. Nobody said anything about how the “troublesome” kids on the street after school were seldom taught,and that they are worth more than the trouble they cause and most importantly, loved. Nobody said anything about how everyone was responsible.
It is not violent video games that cause murderers to shoot- it is us. Because if we all had done something- we could have stopped it. If we had sacrificed just a little care; if we hadn’t just walked past those who are damaged, or if we had just took a little time in our day...maybe it wouldn’t have happened.
But “maybes” are useless. It happened. We can’t stop anything now and we won’t stop anything in the future if life goes on this way.
Elizabeth sat drenched in a corner of her room, holding a small plush of batman. I know what she wanted in those eyes- she wanted batman or wonder woman or a super human to save her mother. There’s a sudden pain that punctates my heart like a sharp icicle as I realize that power and reform lies not in the hands of a superhero but by a group of people but the world doesn’t care until it’s too late.
So she continues to sit in her tattered white dress as she picks up the smell of rain and coffee. She stares straight at me with the gray eyes that happiness had been sucked out of. The therapy isn’t doing anything so she waits. And waits. And waits. She waits hoping that one day that ignorance, death and the lack of love doesn’t take from her again. But in every century and day it takes- morphing into bullets, into poverty and knives and words.