Three and a half years after leaving Teach and Reach, Zee Eisenstat is now working as a crisis response counselor. When she first became interested in trauma, she took a course called Assessing the Nature of Emergency, and since then, she has dedicated her life to being there during “acute, terrible” moments in other people’s lives. Zee has found that the worse the crisis is, the better she can focus—she never crumples or balks in the face of trauma or pain.
Zee moved to Chicago in a misguided but well-intentioned attempt to do some good in a new community that was in need of dedicated change-makers. After failing to do all of that at Teach and Reach, Zee has tempered her community-minded thinking, examined her own individual strengths and desires, and finally found a career that allows her to help people in a true and meaningful way.
Zee’s job takes her all over Chicago, as she visits people at their homes in the wake of a crisis or a shock—a suicide, a hostage situation, a bout of psychosis. Zee is “uncommonly skilled” at her job and often hears from the people or families she has helped months after her visits to them. Zee has become influential and valued in the trauma community and has even had her work cited in the International Journal of Traumatology. Zee is a “legitimate expert”—she runs her own trauma team and is doing a certificate program in a new post-traumatic stress management method.
Zee’s arc throughout the novel has been one of taming her broad impulses toward blanket activism and finding situations in which she can actually satisfy her activist itch without being self-seeking or individualistic. Now, she has circled all the way back around to finding individual satisfaction as a result of her positive impact on her community.
One day, Greer calls, and announces that she has quit her job. She tells Zee that things with Faith ended badly, and that “a lot of shit went down.” Greer cries to Zee, telling her that for a long time she thought she was part of something “real and honest” at Loci, but has been devastated to learn that the organization is flawed and hypocritical. Zee invites Greer to come to Chicago for a little while to stay with her and Noelle, who live in a young part of town with a “significant lesbian population.” Noelle is now the principal of the Learning Octagon school, and the two of them have made a life together that feels safe and fulfilling for them both.
It seemed, when Greer took the job at Loci, that she was destined for greatness just because of her proximity to Faith Frank—now, though, Greer’s star has fallen, while Zee’s has risen. Zee has achieved all the things she wanted in life—to feel fulfilled, needed, and adored, and also to do actual good in her community.
The next day, Greer rings the bell at Zee’s apartment, and Zee lets her in. Zee is prepared to help Greer sort through her situation in the same way that Zee helps her trauma victims. Zee sits Greer down on the couch and pours her a large of cold water—something that always helps her patients connect back to their bodies and remember that there are still tiny things they can do. Zee urges Greer to open up to her, and Greer begins telling her the “long and convoluted story” about the rescue of the Ecuadorian women and the botched mentorship program.
Zee proves herself in this passage to be caring, thoughtful, and prepared. She and Greer have maintained their friendship in the face of a large and deep imbalance of power between them, but Zee is still ready at a moment’s notice to care for and attend to her old friend. However, Zee still doesn’t know about the letter, which could cause a significant rift between the two friends.
At the end of the story, however, Greer is still visibly tense and upset, and confesses that there is “something else” she has to tell Zee. She takes a deep breath and tells Zee that she never gave Faith the letter. Zee has trouble understanding or remembering, but Greer explains that she never gave Faith the letter that Zee wrote four years ago, asking for a job at Loci. Zee realizes that Greer was lying when she claimed that there were no positions available at the company, and Zee is taken by surprise as she realizes that Greer is a liar. She thinks of how her patients are always surprised by grief, and now she is also shocked nearly to the point of trauma.
Zee never imagined that there was any deception whatsoever when it came to the years-ago exchange of her letter for Faith. Now, though, as Greer confesses her sneaky and cruel actions, Zee is rattled by the revelation and understands firsthand—but not for the first time in her life—the traumatic sting of betrayal.
Greer continues apologizing and laments the fact that for all her possessiveness about Loci, the foundation ultimately didn’t do anything close to the important work that Zee is doing now. Zee asks Greer why she betrayed her—after all, Zee was the one who “led [Greer] into everything,” and introduced her to who Faith Frank was. Greer confesses that she was so desperate for someone to see something special in her that she threw Zee under the bus.
The ironies which have piled up between Zee and Greer are extensive and painful. Zee got Greer “into” Faith in the first place, but it was Greer who won Faith’s attention. Zee led Greer toward activism, and for a while it seemed as if Greer, not Zee, would be the more successful feminist, but that has also been reversed.
Allowing Greer to sit in her own shame, Zee reflects on how she had gotten over her disappointment about not being able to join Loci four long years ago. In the time since, she has built a life for herself that she knows Faith would approve of—she does work that matters and often works one-on-one with disenfranchised or traumatized women.
Though Zee is trying very hard to tell herself that working at Loci didn’t ultimately matter to her, as she reflects on her life and the paths she has taken, she still finds herself noting that she lives an existence that would make Faith proud.
Zee suddenly feels exhausted by her friendship with Greer and wishes that Greer was not staying on Zee’s sofa bed for the weekend. Greer takes Zee’s hands “like a desperate suitor” and apologizes again, confessing that all along, she has been “one of those women who hates women.” She admits to being a bad friend, a bad feminist, and even calls herself a cunt. Zee realizes that she should probably reassure Greer that she is none of those things and just made a stupid mistake. However, Zee finds that she does not want to comfort Greer or waste her trauma training and de-escalation techniques on her.
Greer has come to realize the deficiencies in her own approaches to feminism. In search of her own sense of power and personal fortitude, she has crushed her best friend’s desires—and preyed upon Zee’s giving nature in order to further her own career. Greer is desperate for forgiveness, but Zee is so hurt that she does not even want to attempt to make Greer feel any better.
Instead, Zee tells Greer that she could have just confessed all those years ago that she wasn’t comfortable with Zee working there. By lying and taking advantage of Zee, Greer has simply dug up Zee’s old traumas about being betrayed by other women. Zee mourns the “unspoken agreement” between her and Greer, which had meant that they would always look out for one another, she and is sad to find that Greer does not—and never really did—have her back.
Greer betrayed Zee without thinking about the larger consequences. Despite knowing Zee’s history of being betrayed by other women and the pain that a new betrayal might cause her, Greer put her own desires ahead of Zee’s—and then lied for four years about her choice to have done so.
Zee confesses that she felt jealous of Greer when Faith showed more interest in Greer in the bathroom after the lecture, because Zee had been an activist for years while Greer was at home, “reading books and having sex” with Cory. Zee confesses that early on in college, she wanted to help Greer because she thought that Greer was shy. Now, however, she has realized that Greer is not shy—just sneaky—and perfectly capable of knowing “how to act in the face of power.”
Zee is now forced to reckon with the choices she has made in service of helping Greer to break out of her shell. Zee thought that Greer needed help coming into her own but now realizes that Greer was always capable of navigating complicated power dynamics and making the right choices for herself. Zee feels doubly betrayed and even duped.
Zee tells Greer that she is perfectly happy with her life and feels confident that she is the “kind of feminist” who does what she is supposed to do to help women proudly even though she doesn’t get a lot of credit for it. Though she wishes she had had the chance to explore what it would be like to be around—and possibly be—the other “kind” of feminist, Zee tells Greer that now, she almost never thinks about Loci, Faith Frank, or how Zee missed a shot at working with Greer. Greer asks Zee to forgive her, but Zee tells Greer that she is going to need some time.
Zee reverses the power dynamic between her and Greer one final time by saying—whether or not it’s actually true—that Faith Frank has become irrelevant to her and that Zee’s own personal and professional success has freed her from the need to consider what her life would have been like at Loci. At the end of the day, Greer is the one who is suffering, while Zee has achieved all of her goals.