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The pens showed up on my doorstep three days after I started work, and a month before my contract was signed. “These are my favorites,” the note from my new boss said. There was a red pen, a black pen, and a notepad that said SHIT I GOTTA FUCKING GET DONE on it.

A couple weeks ago, we wrapped up six months of work on the single hardest project I’ve ever completed. Sorry. Make that six months, one package of sheet masks, two “dorm food” care packages, some bath bombs, and I honestly can’t remember what else because there was a 96-day work week in there.

It’s caretaking in the age of the internet, when our friends can touch our hearts but not our hands.

I didn’t meet anyone even remotely like me, growing up, and where would I? Our entire town had 800 people, a cop who sold Avon, and a heavy metal school bus driver. The mayor quit mayoring because he had a better get rich quick scheme. But here? On the internet? My people abound. But we’re not more statistically prevalent than we ever were, just because we can find each other now. That means they’re in Seattle. Chicago. Philadelphia. Perth – yes the one in Australia – and Toronto. A small town in Wyoming that you’ve never heard of. Houston and Austin and heckifiknowitsnotontheirprofile and Halifax and New York.

And it’s good to have community. It’s crucial to have people who really get you. Who you can talk to and trust. But a day will come when you’re sick, and you can’t get to the store, and the difference between emotional and physical community is sharp enough to cut you.

Or your friend in Oakbrook can Instacart you some soup.

Last month, my friend hurt herself. I set a calendar reminder for her to ice the injury. Another friend got a tube of burn ointment.

I can’t cook you dinner, I said. No, I typed it. Because she’s three thousand miles away. But can I PayPal you the cash for a pizza?

A pillow showed up on my doorstep: one of the cool ones with the back-and-forth sequins. In one aspect it’s a glittery pillow. In the other, it’s cheerfully obscene. I have a handful of “pills” stuffed with notes of support. A couple (also obscene) embroideries. A woodblock print. I mailed off a hand-illustrated book about a chicken last year.

We find ways to take care of each other, via this wacky little internet where we found each other. Whether it’s a Facebook event set to post thousands of Pusheen stickers to someone, or a grocery order. Whether it’s a first-aid kit that means “I love you and I want you to be safe” or a bunch of rubber stamps from the thrift store, we reach out. When someone’s hurt, or a kid needs medicine we find something. Even if it’s just a couple dollars. We help.*

“Kids don’t send letters anymore,” someone mourned. I don’t know. Maybe millennials are killing the post office. But somehow? I doubt it.

 

*But we shouldn’t have to, oh my god, can we get some healthcare up in here pls. Do you have any idea how much CHEAPER it would be to pay an extra hundred bucks in tax every month for free healthcare than to pay what you’re paying for insurance that doesn’t even cover you? What the fuck?

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