An old friend called a few weeks ago to catch up. There was a kind of splinter in his voice. After a warm-up exchange about the NBA playoffs, he told me that his sister was using drugs again. Her husband had known for months and hid the knowledge from my friend’s family.
“It’s taking a while to process,” he said. Then he added, “Process our emotions, process the situation — that’s what everyone keeps saying. But it doesn’t feel like the right word. It sounds so efficient, when, really, everything is such a mess.”
“I can only imagine,” I said.
“You’re a writer,” he said. “Give me a word I can use. Instead of ‘process,’ a word that goes with how it feels.”
I floundered. Nothing was quite right. We tried on “absorb’’ and “reconcile.’’ But nothing sat easily with him. Which seemed part of the feeling itself — its ineffability.
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