these lovely ‘think’-pieces about how this latest shooter was rejected by a girl and if only she had been nicer to him have brought on all the feels.

when i was in eighth grade, this kid decided he had a crush on me. this awkward, übernerd, weird gangly kid liked ME; and instead of being flattered and gracious that another human thought i was wonderful and not the clusterfuck nightmare that lives in my head most days, i fell victim to the horrid preteen gossip mill.

i’m not proud, but i’m not apolosplaining it away; twelve year old girls are vicious assholes and i became a vicious asshole.

i mocked him because he was weird and gross and his liking me tainted my status that i had just begun to build up. he was destroying things for me just when they were picking up and how dare he ruin everything.

so i pushed him.

he was trailing behind me in the hallway, heading towards the next class, and his ‘friends’—who he probably confided in during a moment of terrified vulnerability—were egging him on to do something, to talk to me, not because they wanted us to get together and be happy, but because it would provide entertainment and distraction from their own nascent struggles at relationships; so they lurched him forwards.

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so that he bumped into me.

and my preteen brain raged at the thought that this undesirable kid had just tainted me with his contact, after all of my effort to keep him away.

and so i shoved him.

particularly, his overstuffed, unbalanced backpack; i pushed it away from me and he went toppling over with it. into a classroom and a tangle of clanging chairs and a chorus of laughing, spiteful kids.

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and oh god i wish i had recognized that flash of agony on his face, before he complied and fake-laughed along. i wish so much that i hadn’t been caught up in the teen bullshit of popularity, that i could’ve recognized his pain, and reached out to help instead of adding fuel to the fire. i think of this moment often, in hindsight, what i could have done differently.

less than a year later, he got ahold of his father’s gun and shot himself.

this crisis, this awful fever dream the nation is enduring has made me realize how goddamn lucky i was. the realization that oh shit, he could easily have taken me out in his last act of despair, and i would just be an angry feminist footnote who refused to give a nice guy a chance. i hate that i feel grateful that this boy turned his rage inwards, rather than outwards. that i am only alive because his despair was stronger than his anger, and no thanks to this government which is supposed to keep me safe.

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but above all, i wish he was still alive. i wish i could have saved him, i really do, even though i know no other human can pull you out of that hole and you have to learn how to fight back the demons yourself. but goddamn do i wish i could’ve fought on his behalf. to keep the demons away from someone else. because you never have the energy you need to continue the good fight when you most need it, and so others show up to carry the torch. they’re battered and tired and not always smiling, but they never give up.

so if i can’t have him back, if i can’t undo all the damage my world has wrought, i can at least try to honor his memory and his life.

i wish that no one ever else has access to such damaging weapons that can end so many lives in an instant.

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an instant isn’t very long.

a life deserves more contemplation than that.

i still miss you, Andrew. i’m so sorry.