I don't know why I just stood there and watched everything happen. Why I was so glued to the window to see things that I can now never un-see.
There was the sound of a crash and then there was a lorry rammed into the front of the department store. It was right across from the office. I watched people crowd around the back wheel and then suddenly get up and run, leaving someone lying on the floor. I watched a man try to help but get dragged back to a safer distance. I watched a woman approach and then another and finally the person on the floor was dragged away from the vehicle. I watched a man point a gun towards the lorry and then everyone started to run.
When we turned to make a move, we were told to stay inside. I called Mumma and then hung up when I started to cry. When I turned back to the window everyone on the ground was running away and there was smoke coming out from the back of the lorry.
They locked us inside. People were crying. We waited. Then we all had to leave the building, out the back way, in small groups. We got up and then no, no we couldn't leave. There was a shooting. So we stayed. We waited.
I'm sorry it took me so long to mark myself "safe" because it took me so long to even just feel comfortable clicking that button. I'm sorry for the calls I hung up because every time my phone rang it brought on fresh tears. I'm sorry for the worry and the messages and for all the love I received from around the world, thank you thank you thank you. It helped me in so many ways, you'll never truly know.
I don't know if writing this out will help me at all but I have to do something to get it out of the circles running in my head. That fucking fuck is still out there. And now it's 2am and I can't even sleep this shit away.
I wrote that in the early hours of the morning, 12 hours after the first sound. I couldn't sleep. Every time my eyes opened, it wasn't light yet, it wasn't morning, it wasn't a new day. So I wrote it down, I wrote it out, I wrote it hoping that it would be out of my head and neatly compartmentalised on to the screen of my phone. And then I posted it, hoping that if people understood that this wasn't just a story that happened coincidentally in a place that's now my new home, that I was really there and that it was really real, that it would help me to understand it too.
In the morning I woke up to a flood of love and messages and support. And I thought, initially, that I felt better. But I later realised that I just didn't feel anything at all. And instead of starting to feel even close to better, I just started to feel.. guilty. Because why did I post that midnight bullshit about what I had seen and what I had gone through when there are now lost lives of people who will never see or go through anything ever again? Why did I project my story from what I had watched through the window when there were people on the ground who saw worse, heard worse, felt worse? Why the fuck was I (am I) putting myself in the middle of something, drawing the attention towards me, on something that was not (is not) even remotely about me at all?
And when I stayed so glued to social media the next day, scrolling through what people were up to around the world, friends back home and in Spain and in America, I never felt so small. That something like this could happen and the rest of the world is still turning. And then again, the guilt of it all. That something like this is nothing, truly nothing, compared to what is happening in Syria or North Korea or anywhere else in the world where war or poverty or famine is an hourly struggle burned into the lives of their people. And even then, the rest of the world is still turning.
This is not exactly how I thought I would feel on Friday. I remember thinking that we'd have a drink after everything (what else was there to do) toasting to strength and resistance and hope and never giving up on this fight that I didn't even realise we were fighting. I remember thinking that I would spend the weekend outside and in the sun and having fika with new friends because anything otherwise would mean that they've won, that they've achieved forcing terror into us, that they've shaken us into the silence of fear. I remember thinking that I would just move forward and onward and feel grateful everyday that nothing worse happened because it could have been worse. It could always be worse. And I was ok.
I was being constantly checked up on, still surrounded by the new-girl-aura, and being reassured that there are people here for me now and there will be people there for me next week. And that I shouldn't stay on my own that night given the circumstances and everyone's door was open for me. And I thought it made sense, to make sure that I was around people so I wouldn't feel afraid or alone in a city that I wasn't fully familiar with yet. But I really just wanted to go home. And I was ok. I didn't feel afraid and I didn't feel alone. So before it got dark, I walked home.
I didn't realise that it wasn't about feeling afraid or feeling alone. Because trauma effects people in so many different ways and I didn't realise that "feeling ok" was just standing in as a placeholder while the rest of my head was still processing what I had happened.
I thought about how this time last week I was still in Japan and that this time next week it would be Easter. Good Friday. I hope a better Friday, at least. I thought about going out the next day and getting fresh air and maybe I should buy groceries. But then I was exhausted and groceries could wait and thank god I wasn't in Spain anymore because stores are still open on a Sunday here. So instead I opened my window and found a distraction in binge-watching TV series and eating whatever I had left.. not a whole lot. I declined the invitation to meet for drinks and I sat and read and reread the comments under my last Facebook post. And suddenly I felt so sick and unworthy of any of the love and support and kindness in the words that were written. I was such a fucking idiot. I should be stronger and better and more than "ok" and I couldn't even get myself out of my apartment for a few minutes of the day, let alone "hold on to hope" and "find the beauty" and everything else that seemed like easy advice just washing over all of the numb. I was ok but I wasn't ok. I had nothing else to say.
Yesterday, finally, it hit me. I was making food for lunch and then I just started crying, for the first time since Friday afternoon. For all the confusion and messed up emotions and feelings of guilt and shame, I was (am) trying to understand something that just cannot be understood. I cried for something that I cannot yet put into words because it wasn't about feeling sad or scared or stupid. I didn't (don't) know how I felt (feel) in the beginning and it still wasn't getting any clearer in the aftermath and perhaps it was (is) that that I was (am) so afraid of. Because what do you say when someone asks you how you feel and it just feels like you've forgotten how to feel anything?
I finished my lunch and then I was too tired to think or feel or anything anymore. I closed my blinds and switched off my phone and got into bed. When I woke up, it was dark already. And I felt.. heavy. But also.. better, slightly. I read and reread the comments under my last Facebook post again. I cried some more. I called Mumma. I went back to bed.
Getting in to work today was like getting a little bit closer to some form of reality again. We all had breakfast together. We talked. People cried. I opened my emails to find "stay inside and keep away from windows" in the subject line of an empty message sent out to everyone. The time stamp said that it was sent 30 minutes after the crash. I wondered how many people were still in front of their screens at this time to see it. We worked (tried to) until 12pm and then everyone went outside for a minute silence. It was.. difficult. The whole day just felt out of place. We were working and then we weren't working.
I think about all of the comments, again, and all of the private messages and the people who reached out to me without even knowing about anything I had posted before. Some people without even knowing me for more than a few hours in real life, who wrote to me, just checking in, just because when they heard the news, they had thought of me too. And I think about all of this kindness people have shared and then to not have been able to fully recognise it until now is so alarming to me in so many ways. I think about how trauma effects people differently and how this means that recovery is an individual process too. And I'm not there yet. But I will be. And I realised today that there's no shame in not knowing when. So for now, this is what it feels like.
I was supposed to pick up my ID card today. I was supposed to go to back to the bank. I was supposed to start yoga. I was supposed to do so many things. And instead, I just went to buy groceries.