We have a ten-minute break from talking about #climatechange at the #SEJ2018 conference in Flint, MI, and I walk outside seeking air. I find a heavy police presence, notice the Flint River is right there, wander over. See cops on the water’s edge, along with a scuba diver gearing up. I ask an older black man on my right what happened. He says a man drowned a few days ago and they’re looking for the body. A younger white man, tattoos on his neck, comes up on my left, and I ask him, too.
“It was my friend. Tripping on acid the other night and he thought he could walk on water.”
He’d been walking on some object that was floating, and then he slipped in. Couldn’t get out. Vanished below the water.
“I’m sorry,” I say. He’s stoic.
“Just another one down in Flint,” he says.
“Why?” I ask him.
“I dunno, drugs,” he says, shrugs. I’m silent.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” I say again, putting my hand on his arm. I’m utterly lacking. He says thanks.
Back in I go to the old building that was once a Sheraton and now is a conference center just this side of shabby to talk about carbon and climate and journalism in a windowless room. A couple hours later I go back out. I take a photo of the river, lazy & brown, framed by trees whose leaves are blushing red. I leave out of the frame the medical examiner, bent over the body of the 32-year old man who, the tattooed man had told me, left behind a twin brother. Somewhere, the twin that remains is walking through the city, solo for the first time since the moment of conception.