Prompt #70: Cruelty & Kindness
Writing Exercise, April 2023
I was thinking about the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me, and I remembered when a friend flew down to Southern California to help me go through my mother’s house soon after my mother had died. For those of you who have done this, you know what a daunting task it is, especially if your dead loved one was a collector of things. And chances are, you may have inherited this tendency to collect things (I won’t say hoard because I think there’s a difference, or at least I hope there is). How could I part with anything? I needed help.
My friend came to stay with me, and she put things in front of me and gave me the task of sorting everything into four piles: Keep, Donate, Sell, Trash. She also put food and water and coffee and wine in front of me, because without her there, I would have forgotten to eat. I don’t know how I would have gotten through that week without her.
But I should also say this: we are now no longer friends. Our friendship was a casualty of opposing politics in a divided country. My friend and I had differing opinions, but our friendship did not survive the last United States president, the pandemic, conspiracy theories, and deepening political divides. I wrote an essay about this in my book Animal Bodies, and as it turned out, I had a lot to say—it’s the longest essay in the book.
In the essay, I wrestle with the fact that I can no longer be friends with this person who had showed me so much kindness during one of the hardest times in my life. Readers ask me if I have “gotten back together” with this friend. The truth is that if I