It was just another night.
Shots rang out heavy. And hungry. And decorated windows and bodies with holes.
One, a mother of five.
Her neighbor carried her to a car and tried to make it out toward the hospital herself before she saw the blue and red lights. We had just loaded the other who was shot in the back in the rear building of the property. We didn’t know there was another down. We were headed after the one with the gun when we met her at the entrance, also exit of those projects. She flagged us down frantic.
It was just another night.
We cradled the young woman, my age. She began vomiting from the hit of lead when we pulled her from the car. Vomit hit the ground and then on us. We laid her down, back on black asphalt. Ambulance couldn’t get through from the other end. So we began working on her. Stuffing gauze in stomach. Bullet hit and nestled right between the stretch marks that showcased all the life she built and carried and birthed before this.
It was just another night
I told her to look at me. I caught her fear pouring from pupils. It matched my waves of adrenaline and the rhythm of my heart’s beat too I think. They all poured out together right there onto a dim parking lot.
“Please. help me. save me. please. help.”
Words between subtle gasps of air. She spoke them sudden and soft. Sad and scared. And looking at me.
“We got you girl. You’re gunna be ok”
I looked her straight in the eyes when I said it. I told myself I wasn’t lying to her.
And it was just another night.
While we worked to plug the hole bullets thrive to make, I asked her about her children and, “Tell me their names”.
In my years of work here, it always astonishes me— when death tries to gulp down—getting someone to speak about life, to name life, somehow turns a heart back on. Puts a voice in a mouth. People speak.
She spoke louder when she began naming the five. I remember they all rhymed. She used her fingers as she named them. And she said their names over and over. One by one. I imagine her thinking of each little person, of their own make up, qualities and characteristics as she spoke each name into the air.
It was like a song. And it drowned out the screaming and frantic for a moment. At least for me. But I think for her too.
Just us. In our own world. She, my age, and a stranger.
But it was just another night.
And then all is said and done. The screams are carried off with the wind. And the crying settles back into soil, trying to catch up to the blood that seeped in with a head start, I figure. All that is left is me and the others. Another night turned images, turned slides stored in slots in my mind. I wonder if it’ll ever get too full.
It was just another night
I don’t usually process much until I get home and it’s just me and mind. There wouldn’t be a news story on that one, or any of the other shootings that week.
There were so many clustered together, I suppose its too much to go choosing only one, for an anchor woman, man. Most all of them gang related anyway. I have found those don’t tickle the ears nor fancy the eyes as much.
We’ve had more homicides this month of May than the number of days the month holds itself. And they will all just fade into the panoramic view of this city, I suppose. Except I can still hear the cries and screams of what a city’s people don’t know.
I always feel sad over that. I don’t know. ———It was just another night.
And here I am doing laundry, catching up at least.
I see the stains of vomit and blood on a blue uniform I’m about to soak and wash away. And I begin to replay that scene. I start racking questions in prayer and thought.
Usually I stayed closed up, when it comes to question—just do what you’re suppose to do. Be faithful in the work. As if God doesn’t already see every groan stacked in thought and heart. I get off thinking that questions must mean I’m not thankful or faithful or honoring.
I threw it all aside this time.
You already know— I said to my Father,
“Where was the good?”
“...where was the good in that?”
“..in any of it?...it’s all the same..”
“And where were You?”
“What Kingdom work was done at all?“
“How do I play a part here, what good am I doing?”
”I don’t see it”
“We are being killed all day long! And I just respond to clean up the mess, untangle a chaos? ... hands too small for the number of shattered pieces..You know they are!
..and then, never getting to know if I actually prevented something from happening? -- just here to know of the bad I couldn’t stop?”
“Where are you in all this? I can’t find You.”
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Just another night I don’t understand—
I was closing the doors to my washer and dryer when I heard Him say,
He took me back to the entrance and exit of those projects—where there was a woman who carried her hurt neighbor.
There were men tending to the wounds of a stranger.
Cradling her broken body, laying her down gentle and consoling.
“Keep breathing, sweetie” , my comrade brother beside me spoke personal and purposeful for her.
Paramedics running with urgency when they made it to her. Tended and transport.
Men and women running loyal after guns that stay hungry.
Rubbing backs of weeping women and the uniformed listening to angry, hurt men.
There was a song sung from the mouth of a wounded woman, made up with lyrics of life and of living.
I got to hear it.
It was shared in a moment of us. Just two women. Two strangers. Both fighting for life and alive—the good fight.
“Remember the sudden quiet you felt when you looked in her eyes?”
I did. Peace and calm. Help and healing in the middle of havoc and violence. We both spoke to each other as if we had been sisters all along.
Right there. That was me. Loving you both. Carrying hearts and cupping your faces. Telling you what to speak to her and you did.
All these in between moments we overlook are the ones that hold power and purpose. I feel like that’s one of the sweet and sour secrets of this earthly life. He didn’t have to remind me of the things that fall in front of my tired face. But He did because I asked.
Tears began to fall from my jawline into the carpet of my apartment. But not the kind that fall to sleep and disappear into soil, chasing after blood.
Tears caught. Held and kept. The ones that tell healing stories.
Stories of just another night.