On Sunday evening, I placed myself in a small basement and have stayed here until now—it is nearly dawn, I believe, on Saturday of the next week, and I can hear the young people walking home; light creaks in from the slat of a window above me; my crackers are stale.
I’ve holed up with the original piece—the one that began the firestorm across the timelines, the one that sent emails to my inbox, the one that was hyperlinked everywhere. It addresses Current Societal Issue/Human Issue in a way that, if you get this piece will explain how to love other people and enjoy their company and wade through the bullshit of modern life to pure bliss of community. I’ve read the responses to it and the blogs about those responses and the tweets about those blogs (sometimes, I read a tweet thread and the article for an opinion section it became); I’ve listened to the podcasts about these blogs (and the tweets), and then I saw even more tweets. My body has withered to a husk; I am unbathed; my shirt clings to my body; and words don’t really make sense when I try, briefly, to speak them in front of the mirror. But I get the piece. I am prepared to be part of society again.
It was hard, I can admit—but it was moral. You had to read (and understand!) this piece to be a human who cares about other people in modern America.
“Honey!” my husband yelled down, Monday morning, “please help me with the kids. I thought you were on snack duty today?”
I pretended at first, not to hear; I was listening to a Facebook Live event after all. He texted me: “Snacks?” I shot back: “Jim, are you kidding? Do you even care about Current Social Issue? Be a little informed.” And I rolled my eyes and seriously considered subtweeting this man via screenshot of his texts. I resisted. I then took down some notes from the Facebook Live video concerning the piece. God, I wanted to put Jim on blast on Twitter about his negligence. He didn’t think about ignoring our kids to read the piece.
Tuesday morning, my boss called. I explained, as patiently as I could, that I was a little bit busy. She said I could take a few sick days. Wow, I thought, this bullshit pretty much is exactly what the piece was talking about. Jim texted me mid-day: “Are you okay?” I texted back: “Better than ever…I’ve read the piece and a lot of the responses to the piece.” He said: “You haven’t eaten in days. I am scared. Please come upstairs.” I texted back: “Jim, I am super close to understanding contemporary life on the internet—please stop pretending that doesn’t matter.”
Wednesday was tough. My body shook for a few hours. It rattled. That’s never happened. But I knew I could not stop. I was almost through… I thought. And then, it hit.
The Big Response.
New pieces, blogs, and podcasts crawled out of the husk of The Big Response like cockroaches after a nuclear explosion. The death of old takes everywhere; new, convulsing thoughts evolved from the destruction of The Big Response into mutant, freak, superhuman takes. A new biological cycle; a new earth; a new massive stew of discourse. I hunkered down again. “The kids miss you,” my husband tried to text again. I did not see it; I was really focused on this one thread of tweets and hearting the person getting it right. I wanted to be able to relate ethically to those around me. The secret was on the horizon! This was how you become a good person! Eventually, late that evening, I saw his guilt tripping text. “Our children need someone to understand how to live in this world,” I let him know.
Thursday was great. I found the two people I agreed with who were fighting the other people. Ah, community. I hadn’t totally understood the piece, but they were helping. Their bios said they were writers/journalists. I wasn’t that. But I understood the job of a good journalist: to talk to other journalist/writers about what is “right” or “wrong” and never ask any questions of other people. And to judge. I appreciated their duty to our country.
My boss called again, “Sick days are up.” I laughed. “Yikes, do you even hear yourself,” I laughed. “I’d suggest you go read the piece to understand the way you’re being pretty irresponsible about Current Social Issue.” She was ashamed. I had off until Monday, she said.
Friday, I got lonely—all day I knew how close I was and felt like no one else did. Why didn’t they get it? I was so alone. No one else even cared about other people or the world.
And then, as it creeped into Saturday morning, as it became now, I finished, and the sun rose. All of my questions answered.
Now, I can chat. At the party, I can hang out. I can chill with my friends.