I’ve talked before about how rarely I find survivors of violence in fiction dealt with in an emotional sense that leaves me feeling—for lack of a better way of putting it—included, but Tonya Liburd’s “Sometimes You…” from Nothing Without Us filled me completely with the opposite. This, I thought, once I finished the story, this. “Sometimes You…” begins with an act of violence against someone targeted specifically because he is obviously showing signs of mental illness, and then follows him through a few phases of his life thereafter.
We are with Robin when he is attacked, and then again in a shelter, and then again as he weaves toward help, community, medication, creativity, and ultimately left in a “starting again” position that is full of a lot of things, not the least of which is promise, but what was absolutely not present in the story was any sense of forgiveness, nor “everything happens for a reason,” or the like, which is where I felt myself slide so easily into the narrative and flow along with Robin on his journey to a potentially better situation. Nothing hinges on facing down his assailants, nor on blithely “letting it go,” but rather on forward momentum and a particular vow that had tears in my eyes.
It can be all to easy to forget there are different paths to wellness. Often the most commonly told narratives about thriving and surviving paint too narrow a picture of those paths. Finding stories like Liburd’s “Sometimes You…” feels like catching the flicker of a streetlight turning on out of the corner of one’s eye and seeing another way light up. I loved it.