When all else fails there is flash fiction, or a single image, one line of dialogue, art at a clip. This was originally called Your parents taught you to spell your name wrong but that became something else. This is called:
Packed to Go
Jaime rolled to her side, crushing her pillow against her ear, and continued to swipe up, scrolling through the tiny picture-laden text feed on her phone. She had long hair that ended in anime-blue flames. It felt so bright when it was new until Mom’s friends started showing up with bubble gum pink streaks in their hair resurrecting nose rings from Spring break in Cabo ’96. They love to lecture about Nirvana and Dr. Dre, as if they know. She’s the one who has it on vinyl anyway.
It was VSS weekend and would be held in an old VFW in Washington like last time. It smelled of old men who knew what the French Foreign Legion was. Jaime was sure the walls were full of asbestos and pesticide and a hundred cancer causing agents because those old fucks didn’t know shit. They still don’t. She had been packed for days. It sucked because every time she got comfortable, every time the arguments faded and conversation began, a new batch of freshly wounded would roll in. The next batch, covered ad nauseam on the VSS private page, looked identical to the last batch from Texas or Arkansas or some hillbilly dump. She picked up her phone alight with alerts, buzzing, Chandra burying the group with weepy posts bemoaning When will it end?!
“Good fucking question.” She dropped the device on the faux feather bedspread and opened her suitcase again. Black shirts, leggings, bangles, the usual uniform select. A cotton shadow mourning appropriately for her own youth and her generation and what else? Oh yeah, three white pillar candles.
Jayson. Siera. Alecs.
Jaime would graduate at the end of this year without them. Siera especially would have thought this VSS shit was just a sad excuse for an apology. She would have refused to go, maybe. But even Jaime had to admit, as much as she hated going, it served a purpose for her. To hear someone else say her thoughts out loud, to relax and let someone else share and argue, to know that she wasn’t really going crazy when the sound of remembered gunshot woke her in the middle of the night.
Mom poked her head in the door. “Hey, Ladybug. Let’s get on the road early. Maybe we can swim at the hotel before dinner.”
Mom had always floated but the hovering in the last three years was insane. Jaime shriveled away as Mom wrapped her arms around and pulled her daughter close. Always checking for holes, Jaime thought. Let go. Hold on. Get away!
“Jaime, honey. Say the word and we’ll skip it. You don’t have to keep reliving it.”
Her phone buzzed. Veterans of School Shooting (VSS) update: Senator James Whelp is attending dinner. Have your letters and petitions ready!
“It’s whatever.” Whatever for her because it was someone else’s turn. She was packed to go because that was how to show that the armor they were owed can be fashioned after the fact and that futility loves company.