Coping (Club Q)

We have mass shootings in America all the time. But it hits and hurts differently, intensely, when your hometown is the one that has become a hashtag, and one of your identities, a target again.

I am coping by having a coffee with milk and sugar and fake whipped cream. Fluffed up corn syrupy crap that’s been in my freezer a while. I feel mildly self-destructive eating it.

I am coping with excessive retweets. Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling for more but people are talking about other unfathomable things, like joy, and there are no names released, yet.

I am coping by sitting in bookstores and coffee shops, taking comfort in overhearing silly ordinary life conversations rather than face grief, alone.

I am coping by sitting down and pretending I have the mental clarity and emotional suppression needed to make revisions to a grant proposal. (I have neither.)

I am coping by writing “shit shit shit” in a Word document over and over, but I stop because there are people behind me and they might notice a wall of shits on my screen.

I am coping by blaring a TV show, a video game on a console that I’ve opened but put off to the side, paused, and my phone in hand, scrolling through TikTok, no memory of why I picked up the phone in the first place.

But the sugary coffee soon leaves me feeling nauseous, so I set it aside. Eventually I have to turn off the TV and power down the other devices. And in the silence, I’m left thinking about Joshua, the man interviewed by multiple reporters, who cries every time, dragging me down with him. One reporter asks, while Joshua is crying, what this shooting means for the local LGBTQ community, and I exclaim in sarcastic anger, “well, what do you think, Rob?!” or whatever the reporter’s name is, but Joshua answers anyway, politely and tearfully.

Me and a friend text back and forth, worrying and wondering whether the acquaintances we aren’t close with are among the 5 dead, or the 25 injured, or rather the revised number of injured which is now 18.

Just last week I sat in a movie theater which showed a message before the movie asking the audience to take note of our nearest emergency exit, and my mind jumped back to the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting – someone I know was there but I didn’t know this until much later – and my gut grew tense. I dutifully glanced at the nearest exit but thought that if there was a shooter, my best bet would be to play dead under the seats, right? And if this is how I feel in a movie theater 10 years later, I wonder about the next time I am in a club, not to mention how anyone queer in my hometown right now will feel, for years and years to come.

A simple digital painting of a mountain landscape in rainbow. The Pikes Peak skyline is purple with blue, green and yellow landscape-shaped stripes below. Orange and red stripes at the bottom are in the shape of the Garden of the Gods park. The sky is the color of the trans flag (alternating stripes of light blue, pink, and white).
Another way of coping. I’ve drawn this sort of scene often, from the beautiful Pikes Peak view that towers over most of the city to the red rock formations in Garden of the Gods, with its quirky mini-landmarks like Balancing Rock and the Kissing Camels, which over time have eroded to look more like what some would call turtles. Please feel free to use and/or modify the image if you’d like.

I am coping by writing and drawing and crying, and sharing it with you. Thanks for reading. I hope you are coping how you need too.

For resources and ways to help, start with this page from Colorado Public Radio.