I hate that moment on reality tv when someone has suffered some kind of loss—received a devastating critique from judges or being kicked off a competition—and the show’s host shoves a microphone in their face and demands, “how are you feeling?” Perhaps those who participate in such shows have been trained, given the appropriate responses. Certainly, those who plan to have careers based on those shows are compelled to demonstrate “professionalism.” They can be “disappointed” and “grateful,” but never “angry” or “resentful.” Few, if any, have the luxury of saying, “I don’t know” or “I’m still processing” or “let me figure it out” or “I’m not ready to talk about this right now.”
For as long as I can remember, my most common response to “how are you feeling?” has been “I don’t know. Let me figure it out.” When I choose to respond. Not everyone can be trusted with your feelings. Some people dine on your feelings. Perhaps my most common response has been silence. Shit is complicated. Ghosting helps us survive. Not everyone can be trusted with your feelings. Some people dine on your feelings. And call that art. Or politics. Or activism. Or radical action.
A former friend died. We had fallen out. The details of how that happened are unimportant. A mutual friend—a friend who sutured us despite our distance—was compelled to apologize to others for the damage this former friend had done. Compelled to rise up from the bed of grief, from the depth of mourning, to respond to demands for. I’m not sure for what. Accountability? Justice?
A former friend died. We had fallen out. The details of how that happened are unimportant. But as the claims about the damage he had enacted mounted, the details came back. Each one a thorn. Each one newly painful. And I wondered about those who insisted his damage be remembered—I wondered if they paused to think about the memories they were stirring, the wounds they were re-inflicting, the harm they were causing in their pursuit of. What. Accountability? Justice?
I’m not sure how I feel about this former friend’s death. I need time to process. Time that is not allowed by demands that stands be taken, that damage be denounced that something—accountability? justice?—be available. Other stories I cannot tell. They are not mine to tell. And I will not help those who mine for stories to produce what they call art and activism.
A former friend died. I’m still trying to process that. I don’t know when—or if—that will happen. It is made more difficult by something that names itself political and ethical critique that does not seem to care who it damages as it pursues something. I’m not sure what.