It's Friday morning, I get up early, like I have to go to work and go get my nails done. Because it's my job to be pretty. *insert cute brown girl emoji here*
In Evernote, I have a list of things to do to prepare to move to New York. They range from get Renter's Insurance to get absentee ballot in Pittsburgh, since I'll miss the local election on May 19. I get off the bus with freshly manicured nails and toes right in front of the county building to go vote and my phone rings. It's some 412 number I don't know.
I pick up. I'm in a good mood. My nails are fly. My to-do list is getting beasted, I'm about to go exercise my American right to vote and I was going to try a new restaurant for lunch. The conversation went something like this:
Ashley: Hi Ms. T., this is Ms. Ashley from the Group Home.
Me: Hey Ms. Ashley, how are you?
Ashley: Well, we're really sad today.
Me: *Thinking, yeah you are, I'm moving to New York, who wouldn't be sad about that*
Ashley: Well, I wanted to give you a call so you wouldn't see it on the news. You haven't seen the news, have you?
Me: No, I'm getting ready to move to New York, I haven't been paying attention to much locally.
Ashley: Well, there was news last night of two women being found in a home in the East Hills.
Me: Uh huh.
Ashley: And one of those women was one of our girls.
Me: Oh my God. Oh no. I am so sorry to hear that. Who? WHICH GIRL?
Ashley: Tionna, I don't know if you know her, she was kind of quiet.
Me: Tall, a little heavier, kind of soft-spoken, she had a newborn baby? Yeah, I know her. She likes to workout. She used to put her son in his bouncy seat and workout before dinner. Yeah, I know her.
Ashley: Well, she passed away and we didn't want you to see it on the news. We know how close you are to the girls and wanted to let you know.
That's the conversation. That's the call I got on Friday. I asked if I could be of service, to come over and console the girls or hug them or listen to them or whatever they needed. They were only allowing crisis staff in the house that day. I understood.
And I googled the news and I saw it. And I called Mrs. Grayson (my Pittsburgh mom) to see if she was in court (She's a lawyer) because I was sitting on the side of the court unable to move and crying uncontrollably, but she wasn't in court. Then I called my Pastor and unfortunately, he gets these calls of death and despair all too often. And he said he would pray for me and he did. And I called my homeboy. And he read the article to me and answered my questions about the facts because even though I saw it, my eyes couldn't make out the words. And he was at work, but he listened to me cry.
And I updated my Facebook status to see if anyone was around for a hug. Because I REALLY needed a hug.
Then I willed myself to go vote because it was the only time I had to do it. And the only thing to keep me from voting is my own death. So I walked into the county building, tears streaming down my face and shaking and I voted. And no one consoled me. Because as heavy as this is, I imagine people going in and out of courts and the county building have all kinds of heavy things going on, so maybe it wasn't odd to see a woman crying uncontrollably.
And I knew I had to eat. I didn't want to try the new restaurant anymore. I wanted a pizza. A whole pizza. I didn't have an appetite, but I knew I could eat that. I walked to Domino's and they didn't have any pizzas ready, so I ordered 5 individual slices and went home. It was 2 p.m. by the time I got home. I got the call at about noon. It took me 2 hours to walk six blocks. I was a zombie. I just wanted to lay on the ground and die.
I had to show someone my apartment. I told them I was mourning the loss of a loved one, but willing to show them around. That happened.
Then I got up and went to a girlfriend's house. She had seen my Facebook status and said she was working from home and could she do anything? I took an Uber to her. That poor driver. He tried to talk to me and I just said, not today. Today is a horrible day and I don't want to talk about it.
I got to her apartment and collapsed in her arms. My tears streamed down her body and she just held me. We're not even that close, but I thank God for her. It took me three hours to get to that hug and it was all I needed.
As fate would have it, I had an appointment with my therapist at 4:30, so I went to that. Cried again. Acknowledged all of this sadness, but caught her up on all of the happiness I was feeling before I got that call and was reminded that I can be both happy and sad. I do not have to choose one over the other.
I walked from my therapist's office to meet my girls for drinks. I had sent out a text at like 8am that day asking what was popping after work, then by the time 5 p.m. came I kept going back and forth from I want to lay on my floor and die to I want to be on a rooftop with a mojito. Dark liquor would have taken me to a bad, bad place.
I opted to hang with my girls. We went to three different places looking for a rooftop (third place had it) and a mojito (nowhere in Pittsburgh makes mojitos. This stupid, stupid city.) I finally gave in to wanting to be alone at about 8:45p.m. then I slept. Lord, did I sleep.
Saturday morning, I was awakened by a Facetime from two fools who made me laugh for an hour straight. Thanks Dion and Mike, I love you both more than you know!
As I write this, I feel much better now, Wednesday, a few days later. The funeral is Friday. I am not going and that's ok. I checked in with the girls at the house. They are clearly sad. Joy, my one-on-one mentee, said that she feels like it's not real, like it's TV or a movie or something. And it will feel real to her after the funeral on Friday.
The hardest part is knowing that I've done all I can do. I can't mentor away violence. I can't protect these girls from the world. The day I found out, I felt so guilty for my success. I have all this goodness happening in my life and I just wanted to trade it all to get Tionna back. I would be poor for the rest of my life to see that child again. I know that favor is not fair, but some days I just want to give some of mine away to help other people. But, life doesn't work like that. I am sure that I am what God needs me to be in the lives of these girls, but this murder has changed my life forever.
I pray like a parent now. I call every girl's name in prayer and pray that she is alive, well and no harm or violence comes to her. I pray that everyone I know or encounter is blessed and protected. I pray I NEVER get a call like that EVER again.
I love you all, but I'm disabling the comments. I can say with some certainty that 1) you are SO sorry this happened, 2) you have me, Tionna's family and my girls in the group home in your prayers and if there's anything you can do, that you want me to let you know. Sometimes condolences make me sadder, so thank you in advance, but let's just talk about happy stuff, ok?
One more thing: They CONSISTENTLY pronounced her name wrong on the news reports, which is why, amongst other reasons, I stopped following the story. It upsets me to no end. It also underscores the sad fact that she didn't have a lot of family. Family would have corrected the reporter. For your information, it is pronounced TEE-AHN-NAH. Not TIE-OWN-NAH. If I die and you let the news mispronounce my name, I will haunt you in your waking moments and in your nightmares. Believe that.