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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

the other shoe

 

As soon as the news arrives, I check in on a friend that lives in Brussels. A father, a husband. He is safe, telling me he was in that airport just a week ago. We send messages back and forth. I am working, creating animations for news stories that people read on their smartphones. I have the images right in front of me, with the names of the photographers who took them, the blood and smoke, the giant gaping wound that was once a window. I see hands lost in empty gestures, the faces of stewardesses tight and pale.

Just then a new wave of news arrives, about the metro bombs going off.
I tell my friend there is more going on.
He pauses.
"Not good." He replies.
He signs off, to begin a day I cannot imagine very well.
My phone rings.
E is telling me they are evacuating her school.
A pit rises in my stomach, instantly sour and biting against the walls of my chest. Maybe they are just being paranoid, I tell myself. Her school is just across a small bend in a river that snakes around the White House. They are sending everyone home, that's all. I tell myself.
But really, this is the sound of the other shoe dropping, the one I am prepared for, the one I will not be surprised by. It hangs inches above the ground for months, even years. It looms in shadow, but I go to sleep knowing it is there all the same.
She sends me a message.
"Never mind." She says.
I call her.
There is no evacuation, just a conference of teachers and they did not tell anyone about it. The classroom is going to be used to store their coats or something. Nothing more. It is a false alarm.

E hears the tension in my voice, my words choking out.
"What is it Pop?" She asks me. "I can wait for you in a different room to get me, like normal."
"Nothing." I tell her.
My instinct is to keep this story quiet. Let her live a day longer without a blanket of dread wrapped around her thoughts. Let her breathe quietly, laugh at some little something, look out a window, daydream. Anything but this chewing on the news, this gristle and bone of ugliness.









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