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this is my burden


I managed to find a seat on the el
train, for once, I was going to work
early enough

so that it wasn’t very crowded. And
the ride was the same as the el train
always is:

some people reading a paper, a woman
putting on her make-up, most
just staring

out the window at the aging, rattling
tracks, the smattering of gang
graffiti on the

nearby buildings. Ordinary day in
Chicago, slightly overcast. I wear
my sunglasses

just to avoid eye contact with other
train members. We all know this
code: we know

we have to somehow keep our
sense of personal space, our
sense of selves.

I hear a bit of a scuffle behind me,
more the moving of people than
an argument;

nothing to ponder over. Then
a gunshot rings out. I turn around
and catch

a glimpse of two men struggling.
Instantly I duck down, as most
others do.

I crawl down to the floor in front
of my seat, trying to protect
myself, having

no idea who has the gun or which
direction the gun is pointing. I
don’t even know

if this seat in front of me could
protect me from a bullet. There are
screams everywhere;

the gun occasionally going off.
I try to look to see if anyone
was shot, but

am afraid of being in the line
of fire. Another few men jump
in the fight,

in an effort to stop the gunman.
Why is this happening? Was it
an argument,

or just someone on a shooting
spree? The el comes to a screeching
halt at a stop,

and now comes the question: do we
make a run for it, and risk death,
or will the

gunman try to escape out the doors?
The train ride to here seemed an
eternity,

and now none of us even knows
if we should try to get off the train.
The doors

don’t open. I hear a few gun-
shots; two men scream. The doors
finally open.

A barrage of policemen cover the
doorways. I could glance up and
see them.

Many more screams. They don’t
seem to end. The policemen
rush the

gunman, shoot him before he could
shoot anybody else. It was over.
The next two

hours were spent on the train and
platform answering questions. I
had nothing

to offer them; I barely saw what
happened. They informed me that
it was not an

argument but a man trying to stop
a man about to go on a shooting
spree. Then

the man that survived the struggle
walked up to me, and when no one
was listening

told me that the gunman walked
down the aisle, stopped four chairs
short of mine,

and aimed for my head. That was
when he jumped up to stop him.
That man

was out to kill me. But I’ve never
met him before, I said, and the man
said he didn’t

need to know my reply, just wanted
to let me know why all this
happened.

This man’s intentions were to kill
me. But why? Did he think I was
someone else?

And now I think of this every day,
the answers still not coming to me.
And I still

have this burden to carry with me,
that all these people died, all of these
people witnessed

this event, and in a way I couldn’t
explain or justify, it was all because
of me.

And this is my burden. All this pain.
All this guilt. All these unanswered
questions.

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