There’s a pit in the bottom of my stomach that seems like it will never be filled. There’s a knot tied so tightly that I can’t seem to untangle it. I know what butterflies feel like. These are not butterflies. These are bees or wasps or hornets. I can feel them buzzing. I can feel their energy writhing around inside of me. I am waiting for the sting.
It’s so silent in the room that I can almost hear my ears ringing themselves for the sound. Moments of silence sliced by the buzz of a phone. Every once in a while a voice or a door would set us all on edge until our brains could locate the noise, all eyes flitting in unison to the door. I’ve never wished more that a door had an inward lock. Sitting, staring, holding my breath. Waiting.
Waiting for a friend to text. Waiting for any real information. Waiting for the all clear. I never realized how much strength it takes to wait. It would be so much easier to form a plan. My brain wants to leave and move and go anywhere but this small and cramped basement classroom in University Hall. But it knows better. It knows that it needs to wait.
And then the waiting is over. Our phones give out one final buzz; this time all in unison our eyes flit down. Immediately we all get up. Each person becoming an individual once again. We remove ourselves from the collective and return to the mass exodus on the Oval. I get up just like everyone else, and it’s as soon as I’ve crossed the threshold of the building that my mind stops waiting, and my body follows suit. I’m across both Ovals and back in my shoebox room faster than I’ve ever made that hike.
My mind racing as fast as my feet, I sink into circular thoughts. All of them focus in on how naïve I’ve been my whole life. How dare I believe in the fundamental good of humanity? How dare I chose to see others through a sunny disposition? Clearly the reason that I still had hope was because I lacked experience in the truth of the world. I flipped on my phone as my body hit my mattress.
My group chat was blowing up and my heart began to beat a little too loud, until I looked at the messages. Friends offering each other places to stay and meals and comfort. People reaching out on Facebook to anyone and everyone who might have been hurt. Pop up counseling sessions and workers putting in overtime for our safety. An outpouring of love and strength from this community I have learned to call home. I hadn’t been wrong or naïve. The hate of an individual does not negate the love of an entire community. I had a bit of a day, that’s for sure, but I emerge stronger and more optimistic as a result.