What is it?
Tragedy is a ribbon made of steel.
It binds all life together in a web of shared and unshared misfortune, personal and impersonal wounds. Tragedy is living and breathing and loving and dying; is living and breathing and not loving and dying all the same. Tragedy is not always yours: it’s the face on the news you thank God you don’t know or the name in the paper that rings no bells. But when it is, it’s hard and leaden and nauseatingly cold in your stomach. It’s your family holding desperately to each other with frozen, slipping fingers; it’s your name that ceases to be a name and becomes a synonym for ‘hopeless’; it’s your feet bare in the rain and you just don’t even think to care about pneumonia anymore. Tragedy grabs you up in hard spindly bone-knobby hands and clutches you to its warped chest— and even though your eyes are swollen and your nose runs and your arms are perpetually drawn in around yourself, you know you’re not alone. That’s the beauty of the thing. You are never, never alone; you are never, never special in your pain.
Tragedy appeals to us. If you’ve been past the curtain of wordless gratitude and comfort, if you’ve felt it, you understand and identify with the stories that are told. If you haven’t yet breached that brittle glass cocoon, you are fascinated. Greedy. How would it feel, you wonder, to hear your mother crying in the bathroom? How would it feel to remember every day that there is one less warm, breathing fixture in your life? You reach, then, thirsty, for the nearest broken-childhood memoir. You drink it all down in big, keen swallows: the hurt, the scar tissue, the gnarled warped future. Gulp gulp gulp. The problem still persists, though. You are not satiated. And so it goes in the fine, wide world. You are either parched for the water of tragedy or dragged down, drowning in it.