Goodness knows I don’t know what to say.
My phone rings, and I answer it, and the first few minutes will be the conversation no one can stop having, or the avoidance of said conversation.
It was like this in jail. It is like this every time someone dies. It is like this now because of a global trauma.
I let the phone ring, because there’s a limit on how many times a day you can do this. How many times in a life.
I want to tell people not to reshape their joy, not to shrink their sadnesses, but we all learned it so early in life. It feels like the right thing to do. It feels like a proper tablesetting. Something we recognize and mimic even when it doesn’t matter, never really thinking about how strange it is that we all recognize a tradition that almost never really matters.
I promise you, people will find a way to eat even if you stack all the spoons in a flower vase, and hide all the forks under the chairs.
People will find a way to focus on survival, even if, every so often, you laugh like your heart is made of birds and they are in full flight. Even if every so often, you stub your toe, and cry heavy tears like your ache is the worst thing to have ever happened anywhere.
In the mail is a package from a dead man, because the post office moves twice as slowly as life itself, though more consistently. The phone rings again, and I think about saying this when I answer, but I don’t.
Goodness knows I don’t know what to say. That there is a sadness on my kitchen table, tidily wrapped in a package, that is twice as large as all the world’s sadness combined? No. That can’t be right.
Instead I lay the table settings. I set the knives just as they should be.
I talk to the children. The youngest tells me about bubbles. Did I know about bubbles? Did I know I can’t just climb inside? Her little laugh is buoyant and effervescent, and then she stops.
Did I know the sickness is inside bubbles, too?
It makes me remember myself long ago, shorter than the table, helping to set the cloth just right. When do we learn such things? And why?
I tell her the sickness can’t possibly be in bubbles because they’re already full of fairy secrets, and the laughter starts again. It pours over the cages and tables we make for ourselves.
She asks what happens to the secrets when the bubbles pop, and suddenly, finally, I am having a different conversation.
And suddenly, finally, I know exactly what to say again.
I’m bone-weary today, my friends. Tomorrow I will write something cheery, I promise.