Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Trauma and Lemon Tarts: Life after Westgate

I walked into Mama’s today. That’s the French brasserie where I've been purchasing lemon tarts as my earned guilty pleasure since a couple of weeks ago when I was stuck in the bathroom for over three hours while AK-47 gunshots sprayed like steel rain outside the bathroom door. Today as I walked timidly into Mama’s with my eyes wide and darting back and forth I spotted the owners of one of my favorite clothing boutiques in Westgate. Their faces looked like mine – eyes wide gazing at something horrible in the past rather than what was in front of them. Once in a while their gazes darted towards the exit  while their faces displayed softened features of a life grateful for being given a second chance.  Back in Westgate these were confident faces – the look of success and comfort-ability  The look of two people who would retire in a few years while bouncing their grandchildren up and down on their lap. Today they sat shrugged in a corner trying to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives with French delicacies.

            As I walked towards them I hugged both of them tightly. “So glad that you made it out” I said. This is the phrase that’s become common for me lately. I didn't know their names but somehow seeing them alive was another sigh of relief on my heart’s spectrum. It was the same for the hairdresser, the jewelry maker, the Israeli Artcafe managers and my favorite sushi chef although he seemed more depressed that he was now jobless.
            I recognized the friendly Nakumat store attendant in the newspaper. In the picture he was standing with an army officer. Although I remember him with two eyes the picture displayed an almost limp man, still in his Nakumat uniform with only one eye. The eye socket was not bleeding.

            I still don’t know what ever became of the ladies who worked at Linton’s. They sold me lip gloss and did my nails once in a while. They often asked how Sakata was going.  I think back to when we were walking out of the Oshwal Centre - happy to be alive and still in shock. There was a father frantically looking for his daughter. He looked to be in his upper 60’s. He said she worked at Linton’s. My mind was still in a swirl from my own trauma that I had just experienced. As he spoke 5 different images of women who worked at Linton’s flashed across my memory and I wondered if any of them could have been his daughter. I wondered if they were hiding or if they had been shot beside their own beauty products. I stared at him in a silent daze while my husband directed him to the Red Cross for locating missing persons. 

The other day I opened the paper and noticed a former student of mine in the obituary in the special section for Westgate victims. She was a Muslim girl. I think I’ll quit reading the paper for a while…

            Nowadays I’m tired of telling the story but the story continues. The interviews have stopped coming, the phone has stopped ringing and the search for the new normal has begun. Laughing has returned and I am more thankful now than ever for dance, music, singing and family. And of course the occasional lemon tart from Mama’s. 

Note: Don't be confused about the nationality. I am both Canadian and Bermudian:)

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