That t-shirt tells a story, doesn't it?
It's a story that my uneven gait references whenever I leave the house and expose myself to others. If my face is unfamiliar, I look like an old lady who limps. For those who were here and who remember, it's the whole thing all over again. I can see it on their faces; over six years time it's become a recognizable syndrome. This happened to all of Tucson is a phrase I've repeated over and over again. Those looks validate my contention.
My presence as a reminder of evil.... because they don't know me. They don't know that I am a survivor. The shooter is not an everyday feature of my life; the physical consequences of his bullets is as far as he gets into my world. Their looks bring Christina-Taylor right back to me, and that's okay, because she's usually smiling her snarky smile, shoving me back from the abyss.
I endure the hugs they need to give. I move on. I am a survivor.
Several years ago, watching me galumph from the couch to the kitchen, Brother mused thusly :"You can never get a break, can you? It's always there to remind you." He's right, but maybe not in the way he imagines. I control the memories; my limp connects to I got shot and (for the most part) not much else. Not the losses, not the blood, not the young man himself; they do not live in the front of my brain. I can't be that sad nor that scared nor that angry all the time. I can't wallow, because that would be wasting the fact that the sun came up today and I was here to see it. To be a survivor, I have to live my life.
And so, June 2nd came and went. I took a deep breath and wore my t-shirt to the grocery store, where I received a giant smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up from a total stranger at the Deli Counter. A little boy wondered about our interaction and I gave him the little boy explanation (He didn't know to use his words instead of a gun.) I walked away listening to his mother reinforce the lesson, and I took myself and my shirt right home.
I couldn't go to the Rally to End Gun Violence. I couldn't walk around the mall, looking for the perfect little birthday gift for a friend who is moving away. I couldn't go to the gym. I felt too vulnerable, too exposed, too scared. I shared thoughts with a few. I took many deep breaths.
I am a survivor. I do what I can.