From the streets outside my door, not 10 minutes ago, came a series of broken wails and three short sequences of rapid fire pops followed by one last scream. I took me a few seconds to decide what it was that I’d heard, and a few seconds longer to rise to the window and try to catch a glimpse. I saw nothing and so sat on the floor by the window, listening in. Not two minutes later came the shrill song of a siren. I Googled news reports and came up short. I heard a dog bark, some cars rushed by, casual voices rang through the streets, some horns sounded complaints, the scent of rush hour settled in.
My impressions divide. I wonder after my fellow man, I see myself in a dazed terror, yanked from my day, too fast to panic, falling in the street under a mellow sun. I wonder if I should move, and where to go, and if I should leave the house this second, and whether to take the stairs. I wonder where my loved ones are. I look out and think it strange that the buildings are unmoved, and the ants have so happily returned to theirs trails. I wonder how many lives have changed, and how, and whether the phone call reached right people, and who they are, and if someone has already died alone. I also feel a quiet thrill.
Abstract danger is incredibly exciting. Oh, the romance of speeding across the country in rusted Harley, the fun of risking health and security, knowing you can lose it all. Nobody I know has ever lost health, security, or “their all.” They have had strokes, lived on benches, watched their children die. Abstract danger is a high stake, importance, contrast, aliveness, it is what gives a choice its meaning. Concrete danger is merely tragic.
There are times when the symbolic importance of an event seems almost at odds with its details, when abstraction seems very far from fact. From afar, I can almost see the strange beauty of it all, I’m left with only the impression of humanity. I look at the dots on the streets, and briefly, I know each of them intimately – late for school, leaving an interview, phoning a friend, planning an evening, mourning mother, drinking, celebrating, disintegrating, paying off a debt, being a better father today, buying that laced bustier, tiring, trying, striving – they pay me no matter at all.
“Today, a dreadful thing sounded through my door, fear and wounds in terrible injustice, and the world kept spinning, never pausing to weep.”
“Today humanity pounded on my door.”
I don’t know which is true.