Discover more from the immense wave
Last week over the phone my dad told me that there had been a fatal accident at the factory where he works. What surprised me most was that beneath the heartbreak in his voice there was also an unspoken acknowledgement that these things are just part of his job. Have you ever looked at the OSHA fatality inspection data? There are literally thousands of people (5,333 in 2021) dying at work every year, mostly from either falling or having things fall on them. And it mostly happens in the jobs this whole world can’t exist without. These are people who make buildings or wire electricity to them or make roads or lay down train tracks. You’d think the essential nature of their work would make their lives just as valuable, but no — the fact that they are alienated from the labor without which the whole system collapses renders their lives totally incidental.
There’s a scene in Pedro Almodóvar’s 2006 film Volver where Penélope Cruz’s character, Raimunda, sits on a bench with her mother, Irene, who apologizes to her for not having noticed that Raimunda’s father sexually abused her when she was a teenager. I’ve seen this movie probably a dozen times, but I had never paid as much attention to this scene as I did when I watched it a few days ago. Irene not only apologizes; she also insists on her wrongdoing, and she does it with disarming ease, a declaration of humanity: I fucked up. It should always be that easy. A week or two ago my friend A held my hands across the table where we were having dinner and apologized for any hurt she’d caused me in the last year; I accepted her apology and gave one in return. I didn’t know if I had anything to be sorry for, but isn’t that so often the case? It felt good to blanket it. I’m sorry as an acknowledgement: I can always do wrong; I can always try to right it.
Iris DeMent’s “My Life” is a good song for the fall. Makes you feel okay both about things ending and carrying on: