On Being the Stranger
You get a sick thrill when you stumble across a website that has been cobbled together to provide “solace” for people who are mourning a stranger. You can read through the comment section and see the way raw grief paralyzes grammar. You can look at the last names and piece a story together: there's his cousin, there's his sister.
You find yourself wanting to mourn them too because mourning feels good and soon enough the tears are stinging your eyes because you have somehow—inopportune and sacrilegious freak that you are—found the father’s obituary for the son. Nothing is sacred. Everything is accessible. Here, he is spewing aphorisms because they are the only way to bandage that geyser of grief, and he is signing off as “Heartbroken,” and you are reading the whole thing without apology. Past midnight, you search the Internet to find the boy’s real name and tuck it into your dark heart.
And the whole time you recite to yourself a litany of the people you have not lost. This is not the same as the litany of people you thought you might lose.