Reflecting on a Year of Death

The Verge has published a memorial for my friend, Molly. The Covid-19 Pandemic began for me, in earnest, when my friend called me and told me that Molly had killed herself. I was in the office and I got the call.

In my lectures, when I was a professor of Philosophy and Art History, I used to riff on something my advisor, Avital Ronell, said. That no one wants to take “the call.” I’d joke about how my sister won’t answer the phone when I call her—I love to talk on the phone. Sometimes desperately so; I need to talk with folks.

I’d joke that folks must just look at their phones in astonishment, “What kind of sociopath calls you?!” No one wants to receive the call. Because what if it’s the call that Abraham received?

There I was, holding my phone, wondering what I was supposed to do.

It’s not like Molly and I were close. We worked together at Kennesaw State University, but I didn’t really see her often. We took a class together, but it met infrequently. She hated KSU, but everyone who works at KSU hates KSU—deservedly so.

It’s not like Blake and I are especially close either. I’ve known him for decades, we’ve played shows together, we’d sometimes shoot the breeze together. But I made it a point to be there when his parents died because that’s what friends do. There are many ways of being a friend, I’m learning over the years.

The week before Molly died I had been in the office talking with a friend and I remember saying, “I’m not too worried yet. I’m more concerned about the sinophobia this disease is ginning-up….”

But that week, going to Blake’s house, it really felt like the world had to end.

It was so scary. I really trembled at times that week, everything seemed deathly. Surely the world would change.

I was in the atrium of the office building after the call. I went to Molly’s twitter feed. I was devastated by the last three tweets Molly shared that week.

She shared something David Graeber had posted: people in a Costco-type warehouse.

The person who recorded the video says “That’s crazy, I love it. Too many people! They’re going nuts for toilet paper!”

Graeber died a few months later. I’d met him in New York, at a Public School event, before Occupy, before I did my own Public School event, before I was in Zuccotti. My friends and I read his work at our reading group. I was inspired by him. The world has been changing.

Today I read a headline that “1 in 800 North Dakota Residents Are Dead from Covid.” What are we doing here in the States?

The week Molly died, I went to Blake’s house. It was the first time I’d been to this house, we weren’t that kind of close. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I didn’t want my wife to die and I knew I didn’t want to be alone and without friends if such a thing ever happened to me.

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with my mom, sometimes she takes my calls. I remember saying to her that I feel like this whole pandemic is one long test of our character. That the quality of who we are as individuals is being tested.

Am I self-serving and unwilling to defer my personal satisfactions? Am I willing to make the most modest of sacrifices in order to reduce the transmission of a disease that will kill many people? People whom I will probably never even know lived, let alone died from my actions?

These questions don’t induce quite the same degree of trembling today, but I am still afraid of the answers to those questions.

I came back from the funeral and took off all my clothes in the garage and I left them there.

I’m still here. You’re still here.
Surely we’re going to change the world.