Vyshali Manivannan has written extensively about the decades-long ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, her parents’ home country. Having spread her father’s ashes a year ago to the day, Sunday’s bombings came as a reminder that the cycle of violence continues, along with the trauma it leaves in its wake.
Today is loss that isn’t loss. It’s loss that’s become as acceptable as the parallelogram of skin on my ankle that I perennially shave off. I didn’t even notice the first time, stepped out in my towel tracking rivers of blood, Amma pronounced, all over the clean floor. We’ve known this floor since 1983, which is to say there never was a time I didn’t know it, right up to the end of the war, which retrofitted the foundation of what a war story could be, it seemed, across the Tamil diaspora. The story of how we learned of it, if we weren’t there.
Nearly ten years ago, I fled my apartment for a friend’s downtown, then abandoned their air mattress for higher ground, crouching on the back of their sofa with a laptop balanced across my knees. No one had yet taught me it doesn’t matter that the floor isn’t lava, the earth needs no heat to swallow you whole. How many times must I relearn? I found out the war ended by the way I was labeled with vicarious trauma: two people, out of everyone I knew in proximity, were willing to engage, while others politely checked their empathy larders for an I’m so sorry, you and yours are in my thoughts. Every simpering thank you I performed restocking their shelves. Read More