word by Annie Rubin
colour by Mojo Wang
There was no one in Bill’s house to turn off the TV when channel four came on. We thought of him as some sort of guru: he told us of kidnappings; of guns and knives and fires and what it meant when there were people on roofs about to jump.
It happened when we were in our sevens and eights that we realized we could press play when mom was in the kitchen. Imaginations were running crazy and fueled by these wild images that kept flashing across the screen.
My brother always liked video games. There was this one where you got to steal cars and ride away, hair all wind-swept. It was cool to be able to drive a BMW even on a screen where his fingers turned the wheel with a flick of a button.
The rest of us were playing hide and seek where the floor was lava. No one ever found out what happened when you touched because maybe your shoes were fireproof, you grew wings, or we just didn’t want to think about the truth. Mom would be in the other room watching the news. We’d ask to sit on her lap and she’d usually put on PBS but that day she was in a trance, eyes fixated on the screen. The television was on mute but you could still hear shouting.
The walls were this grey even though I swear they were melting that day we couldn’t walk outside because of the smoke. They don’t give you a trigger warning on the streets of Manhattan. We were six and eight and felt too much older.
Close your eyes, she said to me, holding a cupped hand over my face to shield from the screen, the same way she had done at the movies when couples started kissing. I held my breath, too.
From the author: “This portrait of muted colours evoked desperation and frustration. The arms reaching out to grab hold of the figure whose muscles are exposed inspired a piece that targets vulnerability. The story tries to raise questions about exposure to graphic images, and question the idea of whether vulnerable children should be censored from the media. Ultimately, begging the question of whether striking headlines are desensitizing our population and how to cope with horror on the news.”