We were stranded in an ocean of noise below the blue awning of the Yale Club. While organizers gave inaudible speeches, I watched light reflect off of your glasses as you wiped away the tears beneath them.
I saw myself in you. Saw someone with a story. A story whose details, whatever they are, had led you to an anti-Kavanaugh march on a humid Monday night.
As people chanted “Eat the rich!” a man looked down at us from the windows of the Yale club and flipped the bird. I switched spots with my friend so I could tap you on the shoulder. At first, you thought I was trying to squeeze past you, but then you saw my face.
I said that I had seen you crying and I said “Uh, same. I totally feel you, you know?” The words were awkward, but you smiled and started crying again, and then I was crying, and then we were hugging. We, two strangers, grounding each other in the storm that surrounded us.
We stood connected, your brown skin against mine, a spectrum. Tears ran down our faces. People were chanting again but all I could hear was your hand in mine. So much of surviving seems to involve grieving in isolation, so I am thankful for the reprieve we find in each other. I feel whole again, feel human.
I used to mourn myself, and sometimes I still do. But I do not believe that I will ever stop growing, and by extension, healing. I also cherish my capacity for empathy and connection with others, especially when so many of us have never been able to speak to anyone about our experiences.
I try to avoid making metaphors out of everything, so on a practical level, I want to encourage people to reach out and support each other. Maybe it’s someone at a protest; maybe it’s your friends or family. Much of it involves publicly positioning yourself as someone others can come to.
Last spring I experienced a phenomenon in which survivors, many of whom I knew only tangentially, some of whom I had never spoken to at all, reached out and shared their stories with me. Beyond the politics of the situation, I was struck by the need of so many people to express themselves, even if we’d never met. Although I was honored to be trusted with those experiences, the fact that so many people felt safer going to a stranger than to their friends is indicative of an issue: Many of us aren’t sure how our friends would react to us.
It takes very little for me to decide not to disclose that I am a survivor, or seek support from someone. It can be as serious as making a rape joke, or as casual as knowingly playing the music of a rapist because you “like that one song.” You may think you’re a safe person to come to, but ask what you’ve actually done to let people know that.
Watch what you say around friends; watch how you talk about the #metoo movement, or the Kavanaugh testimony. Be mindful, empathetic, and respectful of what the people around you may be feeling right now. Reach out; sometimes even an offer of support is enough.