"Do you know what's happening?"
Sometimes I write not to be creative or to sound interesting or like a writer, but to process life & realize how we can still move through everyday existence. (This one's kinda sad.)
Let me tell you about today. Today was a day when 7 years ago my friend died. Today was a day when police cars surrounded my workplace, and a firetruck too, an ambulance, a helicopter. I saw none of these but for hours every customer walked in today and asked, “Do you know what's happening?” Their voices ranged from excited to puzzled to empty. Today was a day when my Jewish coworker remembered the last time police cars surrounded this block and every customer asked her, “Do you know what's happening?” — the Tree of Life shooting in 2018. Today was a day I wanted to hide from every phone call and every stranger asking me, “Do you know what's happening?” Today was a day I wondered about the police cars around my friend’s house 7 years ago today, and an ambulance too, and neighbors who asked, “Do you know what's happening?” Their voices excited, puzzled, empty. Today was a day I learned the death toll of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria this week passed 20,000. Today was a day I started to wonder why I wanted to know — about the earthquake and the lives lost and lives impacted — and why I would rather know than not. Today was a day I started to think wanting to know is part-care, part-love, part-need. (Part-death.) Today was a day when others’ wanting to know felt like endless aggression. “Why do you want to know? Is this just a spectacle to you?” Is human life in crisis a spectacle as long as it’s outside our bodies? As long as we know it’s not us, not anybody we love, not this time? Today I remembered the Tree of Life shooting caused me to wonder for the first time about geographical closeness to violence and the toll this takes. Today I thought about one body in crisis down the street. And 20,000 bodies lifeless across the earth. Bodies buried under rubble yet to be found. My friend’s body found in his home, buried 7 years ago. And my own body: not in crisis but bombarded with the anxiety of it, the residue of it, excitement of it, spectacle of it, news of it, grief of it, memory of it.
Today was a day I berated myself for not practicing music as much as I believe I need to in order to grow. Today was a day I berated myself for how limited my skills are as a musician and improviser. Today was a day I collected my clothes from the laundromat, one of the tasks I dread in this life. Today was a day I walked to work smiling at the sun and the warm wind and the sounds through my earbuds. Today was a day I laughed too loudly with my coworkers. Today was a day my body started to feel heavy, then heavier, then emptier with growing awareness of the body/ies in crisis down the street. Today was a day I walked home in the night and the warm wind and silence. And wondered for the first time if a body making music — a body not in crisis but bombarded with the anxiety of it, the residue of it, excitement of it, spectacle of it, news of it, grief of it, memory of it — is the most hopeful thing in the world.
"The lie we tell ourselves is that [life] is too short. Life, if anything, is too long. We accumulate too much along the way. Too many heartbreaks, too many funerals, too many physical setbacks. It's a miracle any of us survive at all. I know that I stopped thinking about extreme grief as the sole vehicle for great art when the grief started to take people with it." ~ Hanif Abdurraqib, from They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017)