“Thanks for the gas masks, mom…they came in handy today.”
I was glancing over at the woman’s phone next to me while she texted.
She must be leaving the protest as well.
But what a bizarre world to live in when those are the messages we are sending our mothers.
In a world where no one should have to say that, it almost doesn’t strike me as odd.
She sits scrolling on her phone.
I sit and think.
Could I become so hardened, so jaded that I forget the things that I love? The things that keep me soft? Those tender moments in life that help us feel our humanity?
These things that perhaps seem peripheral in settings like this, but are really sources of life in the midst of turmoil.
Could I get to the point where I stop reading? Stop writing? And only focus my attention to the immediateness of my surroundings as a matter of pragmatism?
Always viewing myself with a level of extra gusto in situations where the average person responds the same as the masses, today I had a brief encounter with the limitedness of my being.
Something about growing up with older brothers and always attempting to prove myself just as competent as them, I’ve carried this ego that rears its head occasionally seeking a level of competition in outlasting others in a game or contest.
As I stood on the street filming the oncoming fortified Israeli military jeep launching tear gas, young men with scarves and shirts pulled over their faces except for their eyes came running past me.
The wind was blowing directly in our direction.
In this irrational belief that somehow my ability to withstand things longer than others, I was quickly reminded this is not the case.
Trying to breathe through the clouds of tear gas, I ran down the steps to find reprieve from the gas up on the street.
To my dismay, the gas had been launched into our campus as well, and I shouted to my coworkers to go back where they had come from as there were several canisters diffusing between us.
Finding a space where the gas hadn’t yet permeated, I caught my breath and wiped my nose.
My eyes were watering and my sinuses were burning.
But I now sit here on the bus, where we text our moms grateful statements for bolstering our bleeding hearts with gas masks and heart emojis to withstand clamp-downs from the Israeli military.
I glance at her phone again.
News: “Not Guilty. Israeli Cap…”
Milo is singing about people of color, and I consider that I was just standing there in the slate, cloudy tear gas billows while streaks of white, black, red and green flap in the air, held by fourteen year old boys forced to grow up faster than I evidently have. Black smoke rises from burning tires, mattresses and dumpsters that lie on the gray, opaque street consumed by blazon orange and yellow flames.
A soldier in green passes me now. His gun bumps my elbow.
News: “Understanding Teacher Shortage”
News: “Heather is the Best Person to Make This All Work Out.”
I wonder who Heather is. I wonder if she could help me. Does she have some wisdom or some advice she’d like to shed on my current situation to make it “all work out”?
This woman is all too attached to her phone.
I get motion sick if I look at my screen on that bus.
Instead, I let the swaying motions, the soft pitching and rolling of the 231 lull me into the music that I have playing in my earbuds.
I exit the continually-colonized West Bank and enter my Master’s program “Colonization of the Middle East” class.
A text from my co-worker shows skunk water being sprayed on the buildings across the street from our campus.
The pungent odor of the Nakba persists.