Silence. Undirected

You're in bed on a Friday night, wrapped in blankets, tired from working all day. You feel so crushingly alone that you can't even commit to watching Netflix, the prospect of absorbing new characters is too emotionally daunting. You see a headline on Facebook: local fast food workers are fighting for higher wages. You hope they win. You do not read the article and you continue scrolling through your feed.

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On Saturday night you're at a restaurant with your college friends. You are nervous because you don't have anything exciting in your life to share. Luckily the conversation is fractured and light, interrupted with "Wait, what?" as your friends text other friends, take photos, or share memes on their phones. You feel guilty about looking at your phone too.

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Once, you walked home with Jennie, sloshing drunk through the snowy streets. You linked your arms tight, you felt her heaving from laughter. A serene moment of silence followed. The silence grew taut. You could see Jennie's face scrunching. She told you she had been feeling really depressed lately, she felt so hopeless about the future, like she was constantly collapsing in a deep spiral. You talked about how you had to see a therapist as a teenager because you couldn't leave your room to go to school. You and Jennie talked all the way home. You didn't even notice your hair covered in snow.

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You haven't talked intimately to Jennie in years. She's laughing at the dinner table, huddled over a silly cat video, but you haven't paid much attention to her at dinner. You assumed, because she had so many smiling activist photos and because her new partner is so hot, that she was doing fine. When you get home, you post a tweet asking for how to reach out to friends. Someone suggests sending a gentle check-in text, so after editing for 10 minutes, you text Jennie:
Heyy, it was great seeing you tonight!! 😄
I wish we could've talked more! Let me know how you're doing 💜

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About 20 minutes later Jennie replies:
AHHH you're the greatest! we really do need to catch up.
I've been so so busy but it's a good busy :D

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On Monday, you're at work, lazily flipping through your emails, your feeds, and the Slack channel. Derek posts a meme in the chat, a picture of a crying woman with the caption "When the servers go down". You remember that the image originally came from a domestic violence PSA, which now plays in your head. It's as if the blood and air in your body dropped through the floor. Your stomach is sick and you don't want to look at the chat anymore, you don't want to talk to anyone, but you have a meeting in 5 minutes, and Derek will be there. You consider calling him out in the Slack channel but you don't want to turn a silly work-conversation into a heavy debate on triggering. Everyone would hate you for being "that person". You decide to quickly vent in your groupchat, where all of your friends affirm that Derek is an asshole.

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On Friday night, again wrapped in blankets, you see a new headline: the local fast food workers want office employees to strike too. This time you click. The workers say that because office employees depend on cheap and reliable fast food, they should support the workers who provide that food. This would give the workers leverage in bargaining with management. You love this idea, it's so radical, it's actual change for the better. But you pause. If you took the day off at work, you could get in trouble with your boss, maybe even lose your job. And your coworkers aren't in the same internet spaces as you, so they'd just think you were weird. You envision yourself in front of a classroom, trying to speak but the students are all laughing at you, and you return to your seat wondering why you even bothered.

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You remember how strong you felt when you and Jennie waked home in the snow. The vulnerability was unedited, it was spontaneous, you stumbled through messy words and feelings and it didn't take 20 minutes to respond. You crave that intimacy again. You crave the silence that lets you say whatever you feel, even if it's wrong. You want to smash your fucking phone because you've never been more connected and yet you've never felt so isolated.

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The strike comes and goes, without you. You never made plans with Jennie to catch-up. But you gave yourself a goal: go to a local event. Anything. Activism, Lectures, Rock-climbing, whatever. Turn your phone off and talk to someone. Revel in the silences and know that awkwardness is okay. Let yourself make mistakes. These people don't want to be alone either, that's why they're there. Solidarity is a physical word, power is a physical transference of energy. That is what you want.