As I was walking yesterday just a few blocks from home, the sky turned a familiar, peculiar two-dimensional color of grey. I could have started running to escape the storm but was struck by the sudden intimacy of this small world of dark clouds almost low enough to touch, as if my neighborhood was trapped in a box of fleece. So I continued on my way as thick drops of rain began to fall, slowly at first and then with some urgency, gracious enough to pause every few minutes as I darted from one doorway to the next.
At three blocks from my apartment, it seemed I'd make it home before the deluge. But then drops turned to sheets and sheets to waves, lapping the curb faster than sewers could catch them. Water danced from side to side on the sidewalk as if from a big, drunken, heavenly garden hose. I blinked at camera-flashes of lightning and rivulets running down my face.
I ran into a storefront where I listened, for many minutes, to the percussive rhythms of water, thunder, and car horns. It was beautiful, the thick, shuddering air, the new streams rushing around curves of street corners. I should be frightened, I thought, but I know storms don't last. They make noise and then leave. I thought of my two cats, who didn't know thunder was temporary, no doubt huddled together in terror at the back of the coat closet. They would be like I was on 9/11, when I ran in from the street where people were pointing at the sky and screaming, after I locked the door and curled into the corner of my couch, wondering when we'd all die.
I soon realized we wouldn't--not immediately, at least. And as the weeks and years passed, I shoved this fear into a corner of my brain and learned not to flinch when I looked down Sixth Avenue at a skyline missing the two front teeth of its smile. Is it good that I can no longer recall the immediacy of that pain? That news of violence and devastation shocks me, saddens me, but then, like a storm, passes for awhile and lets me go on with my life? I wonder. Sometime I think the world would be a better place if we all suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and like cats were unable to conceive of fear as anything but immediate and constant. Maybe then wars would stop.
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