I was getting a manicure when the marathon bombing first came on the news. I was deciding between dark blue and moss green. I stopped what I was doing and looked up at the TV. My friend didn’t look up. She kept going back and fourth between coral and teal.
I watched as two women getting pedicures put their hands to their mouths and stared at the TV in horror. The woman giving them pedicures started making sweeping statements like, “It’s a terrible world we live in,” and “there are such sick people in this world.”
My friend was still deciding on a color, not looking up. “What color are you getting?” she asked.
“I’m busy watching this,” I said. She didn’t reply or look up at the screen. “Do you see what’s happening?” I asked. “Do you get it?”
“I’m standing right here,” she said, still deciding on a color. “Of course I do.”
She got it. The pedicure lady got it. I got it. We just didn’t know what to say about it. Now, days later, I realize that everyone is allowed to get it in their own way. I have a real problem with some of things people post on Facebook, or with the kinds of sweeping statements that the pedicure lady kept making, but ultimately this is the way these people are dealing with it. When I think about how I feel about the whole thing my mind simultaneously goes blank and rushes. I think: it’s awful those people died. It must have been terrifying. I think: how dare they do that to Boston? No, that’s a stupid thing to think. I think: this reminds me of when my uncle died. At least I didn’t know anyone. I think: everytime a person dies someone knew them. What does it matter if I do? I think: I have no right to think any thoughts about this.
Still, when I try and think about how I feel about the whole thing I can’t think of anything. I feel sad and angry but I’m sad and angry a lot of the time. I feel like I should be thinking something important and clear but I can’t. I feel frustrated with myself for not knowing how I feel, but more than anything I feel frustrated with myself for thinking more about my own comprehension of this than the actual issue at stake. But I don’t know how I feel about the issue at stake, so I guess that brings me back to the beginning.
I’ve heard people say a lot of awful things about this, and that’s one of the things I can’t make sense of. I heard someone say people need to stop freaking out because things like this happen all the time, just not usually in a rich little privileged city. I think that’s awful because Boston is my city and I don’t think she would have said that if she weren’t from New York. I think saying things like that is hateful, but then I wonder if thinking this way makes me hateful towards her. She said it because she can’t think of anything to say about it and sometimes people need something to say when they don’t understand something. I wanted to yell at her but I stayed quiet because I’m not sure I have anything better to say than she does. I don’t know how I feel about any it. I just know Boston deserves respect, right? Or is respect irrelevant at this point? Is it about something else?
I’m also sick of the argument that this is getting an unfair amount of coverage when terrible things are happening all the time in other countries. That’s really vague but I’m only being vague because the people who keep saying these things are being really vague too. I think that’s an awful argument to make because people are only freaking out so much about this / it’s only getting so much coverage because bombings don’t usually happen in Boston and well, yes, that makes it important and no, it doesn’t make other things in other places less important, it just makes this a different kind of important and a different kind of scary. But of course, people react to these things in different ways, and if that’s the way people want to react then I guess they should just react that way. I’m not even capable of forming coherent thoughts about any of it and at least they’re doing that, right? Still, somehow I feel like they aren’t.
Another thing I can’t figure out is why I feel scared. See, I don’t feel scared for my safety. I’m away at school. I’m far from there. No, I feel scared in a broader, deeper way. It isn’t that I think this is a terrible world full of terrible people. I haven’t lost faith in humanity or anything like that. Maybe it’s about time, and the way it hadn’t happened before the day it happened, but then it did happen and once it happened I started feeling like something was different. But the truth is I felt scared before this happened. I feel scared a lot of the time. It’s just that now I feel scared because everyone is scared and everyone keeps talking and buzzing around saying things but saying nothing and I guess the thing I’m scared of is I don’t really know if things were that different before this. But of course they were. People died. People got hurt. Our city was threatened. Of course it’s different. I just can’t explain how.
This is what I mean, though. I don’t know how I feel. I picked the dark blue and it’s on my nails now. My nails look perfect, even though her hands were shaking while she painted them. They’ll chip eventually and then I’ll pick the rest off and then I’ll let them be plain for a while and then I’ll paint them again and that will be that. It seems terrible that I associate the marathon bombing with getting a manicure. But it isn’t, not really. We can’t help the things we think, and we can’t help the way we make sense of the information that’s handed to us. I think I’d just like to let myself feel scared without trying to make sense of it. I think I’d just like to let myself feel even if I don’t know what it is I’m feeling.