I. THE ROAD TO CASSADAGA
It was August of last year, and I was driving north through the Florida swamp to the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, also known as the psychic capital of the world. I had flown from New York City to Orlando and rented a car at the airport. It was midafternoon and so, as usual, raining, though the sun was still spilling through live oaks. The air was thick, the roadside draped with sagging Spanish moss. I was going to commune with the dead.
It was sunflower season back home, and I had taken the proliferation of this symbol of Spiritualism in my New Jersey neighborhood as a sign that I should make this long-anticipated trip.
Spiritualism, a movement that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America as a sort of alt-religion, today is mainly associated with the paranormal — auras, crystals, ghosts, Ouija boards — but to me it’s more familiar. I grew up in Tampa Bay, two hours southwest of Cassadaga, and was raised by my parents in the New Thought Movement — which, along with Christian Science, grew in part out of early practices in mesmerism and mind-cure, as did Spiritualism. I practiced metaphysics as a child, and had been instilled with a belief in the power of my own mind to shape material reality. I had always been curious about the Spiritualists at Cassadaga. Friends would drive across the state to spend weekends there, especially around Halloween. Maybe because of this upbringing, I approach Spiritualism and its phenomena with an open mind: I am a skeptical believer.
Cassadaga is an unincorporated community of 13 historically registered city blocks with about 100 full-time residents, and is the oldest continuously operating Spiritualist camp in the South. It’s located in Trump Country: Volusia County, home of the Daytona 500, which is heavily evangelical. As the legend goes, the town was founded by George P. Colby, an itinerant trance medium from Pike, N.Y., who in 1875 was visited by a Native American spirit guide calling himself Seneca. The spirit instructed Colby to travel to Florida, and search for a place with seven hills, fed by lakes and springs. When he found it, he named it after the Cassadaga Lake Free Association, a Spiritualist community in New York. The name means “water beneath the rocks” in the Seneca language. There are no town lines marking Cassadaga; it is more an idea than a precise location.
When I moved to New York City to attend college I was eager to escape the gun-toting, overt racism and religious conservatism of that I experienced in the South. But over time, I find myself increasingly called back to my primordial homeland.
Now I was going in search of facts, but also what couldn’t be explained. The presidential race was beginning to heat up, and Americans couldn’t seem to agree on what was real. I had also lost a friend the year before, a death that felt unresolved. I wanted to know what Americans believed — what I believed — what it even means to believe. And I knew that belief is rarely based in fact.
II. THE REVEREND FROM WALL STREET
Once inside Cassadaga, I walked the length of Stevens Street, which divided the two sides of the town: the Cassadaga Hotel on one side, the Spiritualist camp on the other. On the way, I passed wooden bungalows with lush gardens, structures erected at the end of the 19th century as boardinghouses for Spiritualists wintering from northern camps like Lily Dale, in New York, and Camp Etna, in Maine.
My first meeting was with the Rev. Claire Van Cott, who had recently bought and was refurbishing one of the camp’s historic homes. Only Spiritualists approved by the board of trustees are allowed to buy them, and they seldom go up for sale. The Spiritualists have to undergo a certification process that can take four to six years; it includes an academic curriculum on the history of Spiritualism, as well as a lot of soul-searching and character development.
The reverend had been a Wall Street stockbroker for 25 years, and moved to Florida after the Sept. 11 attacks. Soon after, she retired from finance and devoted herself full time to mediumship and lecturing at churches throughout the state.
Her house was in the process of having its gray clapboards painted amethyst. She invited me to join her on the sun porch, where I took note of a Buddha, a stained glass butterfly, a wind chime, a crystal window ornament, a basket of rose quartz, and a wooden angel sculpture scattered among stacks of New Age CDs.
She set a timer between us and instructed me to respond to each of her statements with, ‘Yes,” “No,” or, “I don’t know,” and not to elaborate further. This reminded me of a common sales tactic: get someone to say yes the first time, and the second time is much easier. Few people will feel comfortable saying no; they are much more likely to say “I don’t know” — another form of yes. This forces the listener into an active role in the crafting of the narrative.
She asked if there was anyone I wanted to visit with, and I asked her about Daniel. Daniel was a friend from college; we were close but had drifted apart over the years, as he became consumed by alcoholism and trouble with the law. He died in September 2018, and the anniversary of his death was approaching. I didn’t know if his death was accidental or if he meant to take his own life. I hadn’t communicated with him for years, and did not return his last phone call, made the previous March. I had told him why in a text message. The last message he sent me, just weeks before he died, read, I still think of you and hope you’re well.
She asked me how old he was when he died, and I said 34.
“He can be a pretty serious person. Would that be correct?” she said.
She asked more questions. Whether Daniel had dark hair (yes), sometimes wore glasses (I wasn’t sure).
“Would you understand that he’s not a big fan of entertaining people at his house?” she asked.
“That’s a question.”
I considered it.
“In other words, did you go to his home?”
Yes. Daniel had often hosted parties at his apartment in college. And the last time I saw him was at his parents’ house in North Carolina, nine years before he died. A friend and I had stayed there while on a road trip to a concert. Daniel had been living with his parents for several years. After a late night partying, I awoke to find him in my bed, which he refused to leave. He groped me, held my wrists and said, “I’m not done with you, yet,” insisting he wanted to have sex — at which point, my friend, pretending to sleep in the next bed, moved over to make room for me. “You stay here, Daniel,” I said, indicating the bed we were in. I pried his hands from my wrists, climbed out of that bed, and slid into hers.
Not yet thinking of this, though, I said, “He was homeless for a while before he died, so I couldn’t go to his house. ” Which was true.
“I feel like he’s a private kind of person,” she said. “Does that make sense?”
“He’s the kind of person who does not want people to know everything about him. If he’s not a private drinker, then he’s a private something else. So, did he have addictive issues?”
“I want to give you the opportunity to ask questions if you have any.”
I asked if she could tell me how he died.
She hesitated. “From Daniel’s perspective, he would have to take responsibility for his own passing,” she said. “I don’t mean he put a gun to his head. What I mean is that he neglected himself to such a medical state. Would you understand that with him?”
“Sometimes I find — this is a generalization — that people who participate in their own passing do not necessarily always want to go there.”
III. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?
After the reading I walked to the Cassadaga Hotel. I had read that it was haunted, but also that it had been renovated and was not the original structure. I was planning to stay there that night and was hoping to see a “psychic imprint, ” a common apparition in which the emotion of what happened in a particular space imprints so deeply on the energy of the area that the scene plays out over and over, eternally. But I wasn’t sure whether, as with the Argo, Jason’s ship of myth, a haunted structure remained haunted even if all of its original parts were replaced.
I checked in at the gift shop, which doubles as the front desk. The crone at the register recorded my credit card number in pencil in a ledger book. She looked at me. “Your room has two doors,” she said.
“One of them goes out to the porch, and one of them opens up on the hallway. We have a very spirited hotel.” She smirked. “You just never know who’s going to walk away with your keys.”
In my room, I found a sign on the door warning that there was limited hot water. I considered keeping my luggage in the bathroom rather than on the carpet, to avoid bedbugs, but there wasn’t enough floor space in the bathroom to do that. Plus, the linoleum was peeling.
I went looking for dinner at Sinatra’s L’aldila Ristoranté, which occupies a third of the hotel’s first floor. A lounge singer accompanied himself dramatically on keyboard, sounding as though Antony and the Johnsons were covering “My Way.” About 30 people, mostly over 50, mostly white, filled some of the tables. I spaced out on the color-changing lights. The singer segued into “Hey Jude” and the patrons sang along to the “na-nas.”
I sat at a table and began taking notes, and noticed an older couple on the other side of the keyboardist watching me. The man appeared to be in his early 80s, the woman a good deal younger. He wore a Hawaiian shirt tucked into wide-leg khaki shorts. They approached me and asked if I was a food writer here to review Sinatra’s. I asked if we could talk outside on the wraparound porch, where the night was an inky black but for yellow light from the hotel and the white glow of the Spiritualist camp across the street. Two of the village’s stray cats knelt at a pool of water reflecting the moon.
The man introduced himself as John Platania, and his companion as Patti Young. They both lived nearby in DeLand and were frequent visitors to Cassadaga, but I was surprised to learn they weren’t married. “We’re a dancing couple,” Patti said.
Patti had identified as a Southern Baptist until her divorce six years before, and was now studying chakra healing under Katharina “Kat” Moonchild, who rented a room upstairs in the hotel. I had a reading scheduled with Moonchild the next day.
John had started coming here six years ago after seeing an ad for the piano bar in a coupon book. He was looking for a new place to kill time since his partner died. He couldn’t go to the places they went to anymore. I was learning that most people came to Cassadaga with their grief.
“But John doesn’t believe in this stuff,” said Patti.
“No, I don’t,” he said. He removed a worn deck of playing cards from his pocket. “Now,” He turned to me. “I’m going to show you a card,” he said.
He proceeded to perform several tricks for me. Before my eyes, the deck became entirely made of Sevens of Diamonds, then changed back again, to 52 different cards. He moved my Queen of Clubs from his hand to my hand, to the table, back into the deck, now facing upward.
“No way,” I said, disbelieving.
“What does it mean that you ‘don’t believe this stuff?’” I asked, pointing out that he was performing a magic trick.
“There’s no such thing as magic,” he said. “It’s done through hands. It’s mathematics.”
“I mean, some of it might be true.” He burst into laughter.
I asked if he was religious. He told me he was Catholic — then he began a sentence with, “Young kids today,” and griped for a long time about how they don’t go to church. This mutated into a story about attending service at an African-American church in Washington, D.C., just after Donald Trump’s election.
“I’m a white guy in a Black church, and I’m a Trump man, and I thought I’d get crucified.” He laughed. “Instead, I was loved.”
I asked John where he sees the election going.
“I see a bunch of people that are not Americans running for president,” he said. “I see three women in particular that hate America, running for president. That one from New York, man, she’s an idiot.”
I asked if he meant Kirsten Gillibrand.
“No, what’s her name there, the one from the Bronx.”
I told him Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t running for president.
“She was never running for president,” I said, turning to go inside.
He followed me, swiping through cellphone pictures of attractive female companions. I attempted to say goodbye at the door of the restaurant, but he pulled me onto the dance floor and held me there in his grip until the end of “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
IV. GOOD VIBRATIONS
I awoke on the second day having heard no bumps in the night. I was on the porch awaiting my appointment with Kat Moonchild. The rain had let up but hung in the air, threatening to come down again.
Since browsing the gift shop the day before, I was beginning to wonder whether rose quartz might shift me to a higher vibration — a faster-moving energy field expressing love and peace. When I was a girl I collected rocks and gems. I had amassed a huge number by the third grade, when I made a science project displaying my specimens. My teacher gave me a C on my project: I’d failed to understand the assignment, which was to conduct an experiment: a series of discrete actions designed to create a repeatable outcome. An experiment has to prove something, she said. But I didn’t know how to prove what simply made sense to me.
A man joined me, smoking a cigar. He sat in a rocking chair and stroked a black cat that came up to greet him. He had a mustache and gray hair, and a monogram on his shirt that read CST-100 STARLINER. He introduced himself as Gary Wedekind, a rocket engineer building new spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center, down the coast. Like me, he was awaiting a psychic reading.
“You’re a man of science,” I said, surprised he’d see a psychic.
“It’s a different art, a different skill.” He and his wife had both grown up in DeLand and first came to Cassadaga as teenagers. They had been taking classes here since they’d started dating, he said. “It’s just there,” he said, describing what he experiences when he has a vision. “Like you sitting here in front of me. You see those things manifesting.”
“With your eyes or in your mind?”
“In your mind. You close your eyes.” He closed his own eyes to demonstrate. “I see you sitting there, and I would be able to see other things or other events going on around you. It’s not a visual thing.”
A woman came to fetch him for his reading. He left me on the porch hypothesizing that what I called a spontaneous act of imagination, and do dozens, if not hundreds of times a day as a professional writer, was really a form of prophecy. That perhaps intuition, in life as in my writing, like scientific data, was simply information — or simply language. If artist and psychic were not so different, then it followed that a psychic reading was a form of relational aesthetics, or co-creation based on our social context. It followed that our life itself was the material.
V. THE WORK OF GOD
I found Kat Moonchild upstairs in a small room furnished with what appeared to be several altars of draping fabrics, dried flowers, cigar boxes, candles, wind chimes, seashells, dragon figurines, dream catchers and a variety of oracle cards spread about in stacks on the floor. During the Great Depression the Spiritualist camp sold the Cassadaga Hotel to a private owner, which eventually led to the building being sold again and renovated. Though many psychics still operated out of the hotel, they didn’t undergo any certification process. It was clear that the Spiritualists from the camp across the street saw them as hucksters.
Moonchild and I sat cross-legged facing each other. She was in her early 30s, and wore a long, Hare Krishna-orange skirt, and a lace vest, with a loose braid over her shoulder. She told me that she reads “based on ‘law of attraction,’” borrowing the titular phrase of a book by New Thought authors Esther and Jerry Hicks, by which I gathered she meant we would be discussing manifestations in my life, rather than communicating with the dead.
Moonchild laid seven cards on the cloth between us. She saw my divorce in the Ten of Swords. She then identified, in the Two of Cups, my current partner, and my excitement about our upcoming wedding. She proceeded to describe the dynamic of attachment in our relationship to a rather uncanny level of accuracy. So far, I saw little difference in skill between the readers of the hotel and the camp.
She then took out her phone and navigated to a general area on Google Maps, around the Arizona-California border. My partner and I would move there, she said, which puzzled me.
I asked if she’d ever faced discrimination for her beliefs.
“My spiritual belief system has nothing to do with the fact that I do readings,” she corrected me. “There are Catholic readers, there are Wiccan readers, there are people in Santeria who are readers. There are Christian readers, there are nondenominational readers. There’s Agnostic readers, there are Spiritualist readers. This is a craft or a trade.”
This struck me as different from the mediums and healers of the camp, whose approach to reading followed from their spiritual beliefs. Moonchild’s practice was her career. She was able to compartmentalize it from her personal philosophy.
“But yes, we’ve had people come and protest,” she said. “It’s basically, ‘This is not the work of God.’”
I returned to the camp for the ghost photography tour. Dawn Medley, the camp’s activity director, set up a row of screw-on flashlights at the front of the fellowship hall, one of them fitted inside a teddy bear. She twisted each of their caps just enough to sever the connection, explaining that “spirits can come in and use their energy to complete that circuit.” She instructed us to cheer when they flickered on. “In order for a spirit to manifest in this physical world, they have to utilize energy,” and we would be providing it. It was simple, she said, according to the Law of Conservation of Energy: energy the spirits use must, after all, come from somewhere.
She led us through a slide show of ghostly photographs, coaching us in how to see them. She was interrupted now and then with scattered applause in reaction to the flashlights — first enthusiastic, then less so. I questioned our collective belief in the flashlights if our enthusiasm could wane so quickly, but it occurred to me that, like saying the “Pledge of Allegiance,” their purpose might be less to prove the existence of spirits than to foster group cohesion, and thereby, collectively, bring spirits forth.
We gathered outside. The night was thick and buggy; Dawn passed around mosquito repellent. Most of what we’d see in the pictures would be orbs, she said, manifestations of spirit, which skeptics explain as photographic backscatter. People took their cells from their pockets and turned on the flash.
We proceeded toward a “hot spot,” by Spirit Pond. Dawn warned that it would be even darker, and denser with biting insects. She marched through high grass to the “Portal Trees”: two palms at the edge of the pond, pulsing with frogs and cicadas. One-by-one, she instructed us to assume our positions between them. “We have energy centers in the palms of our hands, so I ask that everybody, in a relaxed state, turn them upward,” she said. “I’m going to cue you to invite someone specific in.”
When it came my turn, I stepped to the water. I turned my palms upward and closed my eyes. I invited Daniel into my energy. I heard, in his voice, the text message he sent me when I failed to return his last phone call — when I’d explained that my reason was his assault. He was a slave to his addiction then, he’d explained. I could regale you with the devastation and pain I endured during the several years I spent after you saw me, but it has little to do with how I currently feel about what happened. Through my eyelids, the darkness flared.
VII. TAKE ME TO CHURCH
I was in the fellowship hall for the Sunday morning lyceum. The room looked like the modest sanctuary of a rural Southern church: wood panels; long tables draped in tablecloths patterned with sunflowers; and an old man, the Rev. Louis Gates, at the podium. He wore a gray suit and a heavy gold necklace. “Mediumship and healing is about getting yourself to a higher vibration,” he said.
I proceeded to the back of the room, where a handful of Spiritualists stood over straight-backed wooden chairs, and I sat in one presided over by a smiling woman who resembled my childhood pastor, with fiery curls. She thanked me for being there and placed her hands on my shoulders. It was nice to be comforted, held calmly. I closed my eyes. We stayed that way for several minutes. There was warmth and tingling, her hands vibrating against my shirt. I rose and returned to the first pew.
The message service was the portion of each Sunday’s meeting in which mediums from the camp addressed members of the audience with insights and communiqués from loved ones who had died. Also a practicum for mediums-in-training, this was a chance for them to refine their skills, delivering messages to as many people as possible, then receiving written feedback.
A silvery-blonde woman in a floral dress stood from the front row. She identified herself as a student. “May I come to you?” she asked me.
“There’s a few folks that are stepping into your vibration. That was hard for you, watching all of them. It’s important, for you and for them, that you feel them.”
I felt a shock go through my body. I was suddenly aware of being surrounded, at all times, by the people I’d lost. I felt both of my grandmothers there. My grandfather. My friend Carolyn. My friend Brook and my uncles Brian, Dennis and Mike. My friend Dylan from high school. Daniel.
“You’re not alone here,” the student continued, as I welled with emotion. “My message from all of these people is simply: Continue to reach out.”
VII. DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?
An hour later, I was still in the fellowship hall, but now sitting across the table from another fellow student, named Dennis. We held hands. Our eyes were closed. The Rev. Joy Sagar was leading the clairvoyance class. He’d instructed us to raise our vibrations, and envision the homes of each other’s deceased loved ones. Dennis and I had not specified to each other who these loved ones would be. I hadn’t told him that I’d decided to picture the childhood home of his dead brother, whom I’d intuited correctly, moments before, had died in a farming accident.
We opened our eyes and wrote down in our notebooks what we’d seen. Two stories, I wrote. Woven rug in the entryway. Glass panes in the door. Wood floors. Dining room to the left of the entrance. White candlesticks on the table.
I read this list aloud to Dennis. That was the house he grew up in, he said, the farm.
I couldn’t decide how much of what I’d envisioned of his childhood home was coming from my presuppositions about him, the few details I’d already gathered, or my own psychic abilities. Regardless, there was something beautiful in this activity. Together, Dennis and I had cleared a space in which it was safe to speak of our dead loved ones, and to share the intimate details of our lives, though we were virtual strangers.
The reverend directed us to repeat a version of the activity, this time looking into each other’s eyes. Dennis told me that he’d intuited that my grandmother was a neat housekeeper. She was a great cook and loved gardening. She always had fresh produce. She enjoyed sewing. She lived on some nice acreage. All of this was true except the sewing, as far as I knew, though she did crochet — I asked Dennis if he might have meant to say that she liked crochet. His tableau was a set of clichés about grandmothers, but I was coming to understand that it gave me a set of points on which to palpate my grief with his assistance. There was no harm in us feeling our grief together, and sharing each other’s burden. “When it makes sense, accept and embrace that,” said the reverend, circulating the room.
He explained that, over the years, he’d had to learn to distinguish, in these visions, between realistic and symbolic imagery. They appear side-by-side, he said — but for instance, he often pictures horses, and is aware that horses hold great metaphorical significance for him in his personal mythology. He must not take them too literally when they arise in a reading. He knows that when he sees a horse, he has to translate it, as though interpreting a dream.
I stood on the porch of the Cassadaga Bookstore with some stragglers from the class. The sun was still high, sucking the sweat from our faces, and Nick Christensen was telling us all about guns. He was a firearms instructor, and an 11-year Army veteran, and had been raised with guns since he was this tall. He wore a yellow tee with a screen-printed sunset on it, and the words TRANSCEND BOUNDARIES, a Hawaiian shirt, and an N.R.A. baseball cap embroidered with a bald eagle waving an American flag. “The more education you have, OK, then the more stupid people you run into — and it’s not their fault — ”
“Well, the thing is, they just, they’re not educated,” said his wife, Pat.
“They have every chance that everybody else does, OK, and — ”
“Who does? Who is this?” I asked.
“People who oppose guns, or people who oppose — they’ll have an opinion about something, but they don’t have the facts about it. I’m a history fanatic, OK? People who come to our house say it looks like a museum. There’s Native American everywhere.”
I asked — because it seemed like I was expected to — whether someone in their family was Native American.
“I’m part Native,” said Nick, “and so is she.”
I asked what tribes they were affiliated with. Pat explained that she didn’t have a family member who was federally recognized, so therefore she isn’t considered Native by the U.S. government, but her “history is from the Northeast, with the Iroquois people.” This dovetailed with what she’d said during the group introduction about growing up with the Spiritualists in Lily Dale, which is in an Iroquois Nation.
It occurred to me that the Spiritualist tradition was in a way haunted by the imperialist history of white Americans destroying and appropriating Native cultures. I remembered thinking this earlier, too, on the photography tour, walking to Spirit Pond. Dawn Medley’s introduction to the body of water had opened with a general promise of finding enhanced magic there. Then she proceeded to locate the origin of that magic in the early touch of Indigenous people, who by the simple fact of their existence exuded it. The structure of her story followed an almost allegorical arc: The hero’s awakening to the sacredness of a thing, and the shame he feels afterward for the desecration civilization has already wrought upon it.
I asked Nick what tribe he was affiliated with.
“Drunk Norwegians,” he said.
“Lakota and Apache,” he said more seriously. “And I actually lived on a couple different reservations as a kid. And the first thing you learn being white-bred is that you don’t want to play cowboys and Indians.”
“‘Cuz you’d end up being the cowboy tied up,” said Pat.
X. START BELIEVING THE STORIES
Lori Carter was the camp’s volunteer P.R. director and a medium, and had been my invisible guide over these last three days in Cassadaga. She lived steps away from the bookstore, on the first floor of Harmony Hall. I had scheduled a reading with her, and was planning to ask her to bless a deck of tarot cards I had bought recently. I asked her if she had any experience with them, and she told me that she kept a deck in her car for personal use, but that the certified psychics of Cassadaga were trained not to need tools.
It was raining again but still sunny as she sat across from me, and drew the sheer curtains over the window behind her, shielding our activity from the street. She was already operating at a high vibration when I came in.
“I remember you asking me the other day if it’s imagination or it’s real, and of course I’m going to say: it’s real,” she began.
She encouraged me to develop my intuitive abilities with a daily meditation practice. She told me that I’m on a journey of healing and invited me to ask questions. I asked if there was a man with us about my age, who had passed on. She asked if he had brown hair and I said yes. “And did he have bright eyes?” she said. I confirmed.
She described a sensation of gulping for air. The intensity of her experience was apparent
“I felt that gulping for air, and then I just felt very serene,” she said. “Did he drown?”
“In a way, yes,” I said. “He drank himself to death.”
She described what she saw happening to Daniel in the hotel room where he was found. She told me that he is part of my soul group, and that we were here on this earth-plane together to teach each other. “Sometimes the lessons are painful. Just know that he’s OK now, and he’s working through things. It’s interesting, he shows me a heart with an arrow through it.”
This is a joke he would make. Sweet on the surface, yet dark and disturbing underneath. In the myth of Cupid, he seduces and kidnaps Psyche and, night after night, rapes her after she falls asleep. She is never permitted to see who he is, so one night, she hides a lamp in her room and casts the light on his face. She’s surprised to find that he’s beautiful, and pierces herself on one of his poisoned arrows, causing her to fall in love — though I was never in love with Daniel, in my grief I felt acutely the love I held for my friend, despite what he’d done.
Then Cupid flees Psyche, and though she tries to pursue him, he outruns her. She wanders the earth searching for him. As I was now searching for Daniel.
Carter asked if Daniel had ever had a broken wrist. A few months before he attacked me in my sleep, he had messaged me on Facebook. He told me he was in the hospital after trying to kill himself by taking a drill bit to his wrist. I called him immediately but he didn’t answer, and since he’d logged off Facebook, I called every hospital in his county looking for him. Finding him in none, I called the local police. The officer who answered laughed when he heard my story. They were used to getting calls from people about Daniel, he said. Sure, they would do a wellness check. “I feel like he is a little remorseful,” said Carter. “He wishes he could have had his act together more in the end.”
She tells me not to give up on my gifts, to start believing the stories as they come to me — more will come as long as I believe they will. “When you open up about it, other people feel free to talk about it, too. Some people are fearful, and who knows why? Their belief system, their upbringing, the society they lived in growing up. It could be many things.”
I asked if she meant that it’s our altruistic responsibility to educate one another. She said yes. I thought back to my conversation with Nick the day before.
“How do you educate someone who pisses you off?” I said.
“God bless it,” she said. “You have to be centered in your own mind.”
Sarah Gerard is the author the novels “Binary Star” and “True Love” and the essay collection “Sunshine State.”
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.