From: Aoife T <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: how about a forever sublet
Date: May 30, 2038 04:24 PM EDT
To: Muriel Shorenstein <email@example.com>
Hey so this is awkward, but I won’t be coming back to the city for a while. I know you’re only on color correction for another week, but you were thinking about taking that doc on the South Slope shooting, right? If you want it, the apartment’s yours. Forever? I think. Not sure. At least the rest of the year. Maybe we can go a month at a time, although wifi’s gonna be spotty where I’m heading. Let me know where you’re at and we can figure something out.
Oh, and Riley will probably be by for the cat stuff. If she brings a print edition of the NYT piece, don’t feel bound to preserve it for me.
From: Aoife T <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: May 30, 2038 4:50 PM EDT
To: Siobhan Whelan <email@example.com>
So Mom’s gonna call you again, if she hasn’t already. She doesn’t want me to leave, she thinks I should “go home”, as in back to NYC, which is a new one from her and quite frankly worrying. Or maybe it’s just weird she’s worried about me. (I can already hear you saying, “It always was so, O Estranged Baby,” very fucking funny, Sibohain-in-my-head.) We talked, I guess we talked, it felt like I didn’t tell her anything worth telling.
I choked, Shiv. Couldn’t tell her the shit I told you, after all that. You weren’t surprised about C, maybe she wouldn’t have been either. Maybe she’d have defended all the things C did, maybe she’d have said she’d always known even if she hadn’t. I absolutely fucking hate to say it but you were right: we both put Ciárnan on a pedestal, just with a different plaque on the base. I couldn’t really see that till I lost that pedestal.
And I’m glad that I found out, I’m glad I know now, but I couldn’t show up just to break mom’s heart or have her break mine. So now we’re back to the eternal stalemate, which I guess is where we’ll always be, but I understand her enough to not be as mad about it now. I think. I’m sure you, as always, saw this coming.
But I’m still going. Mom doesn’t believe I’ll be fine, so I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to pull duty on that. I’m sure you saw this coming too.
Write, please. Send kid pix. I’ll send you new contact info once I’ve set it up.
From: Aoife T <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: final dispatch
Date: May 30, 2038 08:37 PM EDT
Reader, I’m gonna try to keep this short.
(I did not keep it short. Sorry.)
Thanks for reading, thanks for funding me (this last missive is free of all charge), thanks for not unsubscribing because I fucking swear too much, thanks for putting up with my, uh, recent change in brand. It’s gonna be harder for me without all of you, but it’s gonna be better. I think.
Extra thanks to everyone who sent supportive messages after the NYT debacle–honestly would rather have not been the center of bullshit media gossip after the hell of this month, but it’s nice to know that some of you noticed the uncredited re-reporting and made enough noise about it to embarrass the Gray Lady into saving face by awarding me a “Special Creative Reporting Grant”. Thanks to a generous interpretation of “creative reporting” and some very careful contract arrangement, I’m basically treating this as long-overdue fuck-you (more specifically, and loud enough for everyone in the back to hear, fuck journalism) money. Most of the grant went into buying a shitty old analog station wagon that, apparently, I’ll be living out of for the foreseeable. Still more comfortable than a solocup, which I’m pretty sure I’ll never be using again and you probably shouldn’t either. I forgot how fucking weird/terrifying/exhilarating actually driving is.
I can’t really explain in detail what I’m doing next, but I’m getting back to building stuff. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one to like, build a community, much less a movement, but for a minute there in my early twenties I was pretty good at making spaces and I’m probably a lot more useful to people doing that than I am sending pithy email missives and playing investigative reporter or whatever. I’m sick of trying to convince editors that stories about rebuilding the country are important when I could just be rebuilding it, for real, for people who actually care and don’t want to build the same shitty infrastructures that brought us the Shitstorm in the first place.
Seeing as this is my big sendoff, I might as well break my one big rule now: no, I didn’t know that those files were my brother’s, and I don’t really want to get into what that means. I never cared about all the famous stuff that made you all think you knew who he was, because I knew who he really was. Or I thought I knew who he really was. Or both. Probably both. People are usually more complicated than you think. That’s all I’m going to tell you. Don’t take it personal.
More to come uh, never.
From: Aoife TW <email@example.com>
Date: May 30, 2038 09:03 PM EDT
To: Alexa Koenig <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I hope this email address still works. You probably have a lot of questions for me. Or at least I hope so, because I have a lot of questions for you. I’m sorry if that email dump from a couple of days ago blew up your spot and really sorry that I didn’t just think to try and track you down sooner–it’s not an excuse, but I was getting pretty paranoid and stressed and as a result haven’t really been thinking clearly these last few weeks. And I mean, given what happened in the Bay Area during the Shitstorm it’s pretty incredible you’re alive at all, let alone findable online (though it did take some time). But yeah, a decade-plus-late congratulations on the MacArthur and based on everything else I’ve read leading an incredible life.
I’m writing to all the surviving interviewees, but I wanted to reach out to you first because of something you said in that interview with my brother. It was a totally throwaway thing and you probably don’t even remember saying it, I didn’t even really notice it at first. The first time I read all of the interviews, I was just looking for a smoking gun–some piece of damning evidence that would make the way I got them make sense, something incriminating or high-profile.
Considering how little press the file dump got at first and how all that’s come of the NYT story are “calls for hearings” and a smug affirmation from Darcy that the National Algorithm will be made “even more representative and unbiased” thanks to this new information, I figured I’d overestimated their importance. But then people started writing to me–not with big secret scoops or the aforementioned smoking gun, but with their stories. Sure, some were people who’d told their stories to the commission and were offended at the suggestion they were failed by the process, but there were also a lot of people who’d told their stories to the commission and did feel like they were failed by the process. People from other countries where the American model of training commissions was being exported, or whose particular experience of algorithmic injustice had been omitted from the Public Record. And in various ways most of them brought up the same point: the Training Commission, much less a National Algorithm designed around its findings, was never going to end their grief or their sorrow or their anger, much less this country’s. That’s not how those feelings work. They come and go and are better or worse or easier or harder but they’re never gone. You work through them forever. I don’t know if they were trying to help me or help themselves by telling me that, maybe both, maybe it doesn’t matter.
At some point in the interview I’m guessing, based on your response, that my brother asked you about the feasibility or possibility of a truth and reconciliation effort in the United States. You were a bit pessimistic about whether Americans were emotionally and intellectually equipped for it. You started talking about how we’d need to commit to art and philosophy to really grapple with some of the questions commissions typically work through and then you said, “Trauma is not linear in terms of how it unfolds or how people process it.”
I probably wasn’t ready to think about that the first time I read it. I’m still not sure I am, but I wanted to thank you for it. I’m going to be a little hard to reach for a while, but I think we have a lot to talk about so I hope we’ll be able to connect whenever I make it out to California.
Oh, and Latoya says hi.