Closing Time on a Terrible Day

It's closing time on a terrible day.

There's a terrible storm cooking pea-sized hail above me. Minutes ago I borrowed a flashlight from the closet and ankled over to the apartment stairwell. I saw my tornado safe spot, though what I really saw superimposed onto reality was the carcass of a brick building crumbling like feta, which I'd walked by a couple years ago in Joplin. I also saw a young man watching hail ding his car. We compared flashlights and fears -- two twenty-somethings whose comforting halves were away -- and notes on the safest parts of the building.

It's closing time on a terrible day. Cody is telling me how he's testifying next month against the man who lives below me, a man who beat his wife to the point her screams reached two floors above, prompting Cody out of his apartment and into the lawn to tell cops through the phone about how he was watching the beaten wife try to crawl out of a bedroom window.

It's closing time on a really terrible day. Cody knew the Colorado department of corrections chief Tom Clements who lived in our Missouri city before taking the Colorado job that was his last.

It's closing time on -- wouldn't you know it? The apartment owners have purged management, but they kept our elderly maintenance man. Bless them. Cody doesn't know how the maintenance man managed to install his washer. I don't know how the maintenance man installed my oven. My 80-year-old grandparents have a friend whose money ran out. Nobody knows what to do with him now. I hope those stories aren't related.

"It's a terrible day," I said dully.
"Yeah," Cody said.

The hail's stopped. Neither of us said, "You hear about Boston?" The space between us was the same space that thickens the break room on any September 11 after 2001. What needs be said?

"See you in the stairwell if there's a tornado."

There's a great column by the late, brilliant Marjorie Williams in which she tries explaining to her son why the world has so much violence. But she struggles, not knowing herself. The column is called "The Random Death Of Our Sense Of Ease," and writer Jon Lovett tweeted it today. Cody said he would read it. Today went down as terrible, but one strange face in the world became one face I will trust not to plan my destruction. Seven billion people are a lot to get to know. Maybe that's the only way.