Love & Hurricanes, Revisited
I was going through my oft-neglected blog this morning, and stumbled across this entry from not that long ago:
In the movies, it’s easy to know when someone realizes how much someone means to them. The music swells, the camera zooms, the dialogue slows down and the actor(s) focus everything on a single point. Realization dawns on them, and then they march off to war, turn the cab around on the way to the airport, put on a tutu and dance in their kid’s recital, etc. It’s simple, and even though there may be more obstacles in the way, we know that they will find a way to express it eventually.
In life, unfortunately it’s the bad more often than the good that pushes these moments. (I blame the lack of orchestral musical cues.) It’s another cliche that we only recognize what we love, what we value, when we are on the edge of losing it. But like folktales and good lies, most cliches have an element of truth to them. Those moments force us to put our hands against the mural we make of our lives and remember that for all its beauty, it’s still just stained glass, and on the other side the weather waits to smash it. It only ever takes a little pressure to bring it down around us. Even if, looking back, we realize we might not have been so close to the edge as we thought at the time, that never really matters. The knowledge we gain is all that counts.
That’s where I am tonight, watching the weather howling on the other side of all the colors and swirls. I love so many people, and I want them to be okay. I want to see the sun come up tomorrow morning and shine through that mural without so much as a single piece out of place. I love each one so much it just about breaks my heart.
On Monday, as the worst of the storm was hitting where I live, we managed to keep our internet connection for hours into it, and in what I suspect is an all-too-familiar modern moment I was obsessively refreshing Facebook, watching different status reports roll in from around the web. A lot of them were friends commenting on the gradual loss of power, internet and other services, while some were simply chiming in to say that they were OK and not to worry about, but the ones that kept getting me were the ones of people sharing stories and pictures of the damage being inflicted by the storm. Thanks to a ragtag network of friends and total strangers passing along files from all over the East Coast, I saw subway tunnels flooding, boardwalks breaking to pieces and houses going under water; I heard tales of downed trees, downed wires, and (most terrifyingly of all) downed construction cranes in midtown Manhattan.
All together, it was shocking and sobering and scary in a uniquely modern way – we used to fear this sort of disaster because it would take hours or even days to check on everyone and make sure people were OK, but now I realize what scared me was the idea that someone I knew might be posting one moment and gone the next, leaving that terrible final status update hanging in the ether, like being on the phone with someone the moment they get in an accident. I apologize if I’m sounding overly melodramatic here, but the notion crept up on me until I was well and thoroughly terrified. Fortunately my lovely wife was able to keep me together, as she always does, but it is a strange and terrible thing indeed.
When I was a kid, my parents always told me never to have your last words to someone be words of anger. I’ve tried to live by that as best I can, but now I’m aware of a different sort of parting exchange. In this world we now have to consider what those parting thoughts left online might be, and for some reason the notion scares and saddens me all at once. Be good to each other, everyone.
The glass is thin, and the wind is always howling.