Thursday, October 05, 2006

scary times.

Threats of wild storms last night -- dark clouds in the offing, strobe light flashes of lightning illuming the festering globes of purple-black clouds scudding in. Yet they didn't come; the storms skittered nervously to the north of us, leaving one with the uneasy sense of having evaded something.

Then this morning, driving kids to school. An old baby stroller has been thrown out into the street and it's turned over, up-dumped, onto the opposite curb. It's so unexpected as to be profane. Again the uneasiness: you want to know why. The mind rushes ahead filling in blanks that aren't provided: a man got drunk after work, tripped on the stroller, threw it into the yard? What happened, here?

I brake gently, peering over the dashboard as I pass just to make sure I can't see any arms or legs sticking out of the stroller. To appease my sudden possibly irrational fear that there's a person still inside it. No, it's empty. A worn dirty pink quilt draggles over one armbar, but the stroller is empty.

So it's vandalism, then. Just crazy, stupid vandalism.

(And just yesterday morning, I went out to start my car and found it spattered with the moist ashes of someone else's trash fire. Picky hanks of greyed and smoky white and charred black papers stuck like fussy dryer lint all over the hood and roof and trunk of my metallic tan sedan. I ran the wipers, squirting wiper fluid all over the front windshield, but still the ashes clung and that felt significant too. Stop it, I told myself sternly. This is how people drive themselves to distraction, with thoughts like these. Not everything happens for a reason. There isn't always a message in everything you hear and see.)


People do random, chaotic, unexplainable things. Sometimes I think our conversations with each other are just strains of distinctly separate symphonies playing out; that the bars ever merge or even harmonize is a miracle, every time. But sometimes it does. There must be a mathematical equation for this -- the seeking of harmony in most voices.

I start thinking of a song I liked in college, by R.E.M.:

I'm very scared for this world
I'm very scared for me

After everyone else goes to school I drive on with the middle child to the hospital, who has inflamed tonsils and a terrible upper respiratory infection. We watch TV as we wait in the lobby: an Amish grandfather of a girl who'd been killed in the Pennsylvania shooting stands with his back to the camera.

"Do you forgive?" the news reporter persists shrilly.

He glances over his shoulder, only for a moment, as if rudely interrupted from more pressing thoughts.

"In my heart, I forgive," he says heavily, and turns away again.

A large black cricket with a limp skitters around my feet as I sign the registration papers for triage. "That's my pet," the receptionist says with a little laugh. "It's been in here for a couple of days now."

Again the pang: a cricket inside a house is bad luck. A cricket inside a hospital must be worse. I cup my hand over it and catch it, easily. "You don't care if I take it outside, then," I say.

"Well...if you don't mind doing it, no," she answers, not hiding her suprise very well. I realize I'm not thinking how it looks: woman with an Etienne Aigner bag, picking up bugs off the floor of a hospital lobby. Oh, well.

The cricket bounces around lightly in my carefully closed hand. I let it go, just outside the front doors, depositing it not too neatly into the rock and fern garden by the parking lot. It doesn't feel like much of an amendment, but it was one I had to make anyway. Too much strangeness going on in the world.

You make right what you can, however pointless the gesture feels.