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How Do I Feel?
“So, Mrs. McKinley, how did you feel when you heard the news of the accident?” a reporter says shoving a microphone at my mother.
My mother smiles sweetly, as she always did, every time someone asked, â€˜How do you feel?’ She has told me to be quiet when they ask these questions, as she explains her feelings. But, they wear on her. I can tell.
“I was terrified. I rushed to the scene. Cassie, she will always live on in our hearts.” She tells them what they want to hear. Not what they need to.
This time, though, the reporter turns to me. I can’t take it. How do I feel? Are you kidding me?
“Sandra, how do you feel? Any words to say in your sisterâ€˜s memory? What have the last few weeks been like for you?” the reporter questions.
I look around the room with disgust. We’re at an interview on the news. There is an audience.
My mother dragged me along. Said I should go for my sister. In her memory.
I am enraged. I start to shake in silent fury. I grit my teeth trying my best not to punch the reporter right here and now.
“I was at home when it happened. My mom got the call from the hospital. Telling that my sister had been in a tragic accident. Her friend had driven her home from a party, drunk. My mom told me the news. I grabbed my coat. We arrived at the hospital. I stayed there all night before she died. I never said goodbye, just hello.”
The reporter smiles maliciously at me. I know it’s the reporterâ€˜s job to get the story. There’s going to be an article in the paper. And, this TV station is running this interview, live, as we speak. It was a big accident in our small town. 5 teens died that night. But does she have to be so cruel?
“But, what were your feelings? You must miss her terribly.”
My mother’s eyes plead with me to â€˜be good.’
I don’t think I can.
I shake once more. “What right do you have to my feelings?” I whisper, nearly inaudible. However, my voice commands the attention of the audience. “How do I feel? 5 people are dead! You shove that microphone in my face and you ask me how I feel. You ask me what I feel like to know that my sister is dead, by her friend’s drunken deed. How do you think I feel?” I look around the audience, daring them to say something.
I address them.
“You all sit there and you listen to us weave our tragic tale. You watch the news for stories such as these. You buy the newspaper and you revel in the tragedies. You discuss it all the water cooler or during study hall! It’s always entertainment when it’s the other person. A news worthy topic,” I sneer. “What happens when you are the other person? How would you feel when you got the phone call? DEAD!” I roar. The reporter looks startled. My mother resigned. Neither stop me.
“You come specifically today to see my mother’s interview and mine, and yet you come not for news. You come not for mourning. You come from mere curiosity. You wonder how we feel. It is not your way of coping, so do not pull that card.” I shake my head.
“Do you even know her? Do you know who Cassie really was? Do you know who those girls really were? Ask us not what we felt. Ask yourselves why you harass us. Perhaps you’re scared. Scared because they made a mistake and went on the road that night. I have no doubt my sister was drunk too. A mistake she made that cost her, her life. Her life. This is not a joke. And this is not entertainment. People are dead,” I cry in anguish.
“Are you bitter because maybe they could have hit someone else on the road that night? You, even? Do you ask our feelings to torture us so? Is this your twisted form of revenge?”
I turn back to the reporter. “And you! You, all week you’ve interviewed the families of the dead. I know you need the story. God, everyone should know the story! Maybe it will stop a teen from drinking and driving one day. But must you be so cruel? Must you shove that microphone in our face and ask us to disclose our feelings to the world?”
“You seem to think we lost our right to privacy that night. We did not. I lost so much that night. I lost a sister. I lost a friend. I lost much. But, I did not lose my right to mourn,” I command. “I did not lose my right to cry in the privacy of my own room. My mother told me to come here today in my sister’s memory. For her.”
“She wouldn’t want this. She was such a good person. She would want her story heard. She would want people to learn from her mistake. Stop a kid from drinking. But she would not want us,” I said indicating to my mother and myself, “to lose our dignity.”
“Look yourself in the mirror. All of you. And next time you say you’re sorry, mean it.”
The reporter looked upset that I had embarrassed her.
“And do not look at me that way. If you don’t want to know the answer, do not ask me how I feel!”
“For this is how I feel! I miss her terribly, but what right do you have to know that? You don’t even know me!”
The reporter squirms. The audience is silent, entirely. My mother has an odd look in her eyes. I do not recognize it.
“You don’t know her either,” I say to the reporter. “You all look at me like I’m crazy. Talking about it helps!” I say in a mocking tone. “Don’t look at me with pity and don’t look at me with concern. I assure you, one day, when you are the other person, for I assure you, someone here will be the other person one day, you will understand. You will get that call. You will feel your heart break, your very being break. And you will want to be alone with your remaining family to mourn. You will want peace, when it is so hard to come by. Someone will shove that microphone in your face. They will ask you how you feel. You will think back to today, to that â€˜wild girl’ you saw on the news one day. You will understand.”
“I apologize if you feel I have ruined your interview,” I glance at the reporter, “But, there is one more thing, I must say. Truly for my sister’s memory.”
I stand. “You see me share my rage. But, no my rage is not with the girl driver. For she too died that night. I am upset, sure. I am upset that the girl who came over to my house everyday made such a mistake. My sister’s best friend. But I forgive her. And no, I do not condemn the family for the daughter’s mistake. For they have suffered enough. I wish this upon none of you, do not mistake me. Losing my sister, it has been hell.”
“Now, I address this to all those out there who have ever reached for the keys after a night of drinking. Just don’t. Think of your family. Think of who else could suffer by your mistake. Think more of yourself, think more of them,” I say, walking towards the exit. “And just don’t.”
“Because they will miss you, as I miss Cassie.”
I open the door the leave, but I turn one last glance at the room. Suddenly, someone starts clapping, getting to their feet. Many more rise to their feet. An applause rumbles through the room. I look towards my mom. I hope she is not mad at my outburst. I hope I have not hurt her more than she is already.
As the applause continues, I gather courage, and I look into my mother’s eyes. There are tears running down her face, but now I recognize the look in her eyes.
It is one of pride.