Sheets Blowing in the Wind
They came without warning...
Sheets Blowing in the Wind
They came without warning. No bulletins were posted, nothing scrolled at the bottom of the screen. The sky did not darken. Dogs did not howl nor moan. It was sudden. A rumbling echoed in the distance, momentarily stopping the pleasantries of the mid spring afternoon.
The swarm grew in intensity as the cursing and shouts rose above the cooling breeze. The very air stopped as they came into view. Trees shook, their new leaves trembling. Their thunder increased booming around the corner. At the stop sign, they stopped. Regrouping? It was difficult to tell, near impossible to see through their fury. Traffic maneuvered around them as they converged in the middle of the street. From the shadows of neglected trees and abandoned property, more arrived. They now spanned on entire block and moved with deliberate care towards the alley. The sounds of splintering wood, shattering glass and crunching rocks came underneath my headphones. I dashed to the back porch. I saw nothing, yet I could feel a presence swelling with mumbled curses coloring the spring with bitter hues of hatred. Instinctively, I grabbed a nearby broom. What I intended to do with it, I didn’t know. I could see my sheets blowing in the wind, nothing could happen, nothing really bad anyway. I tried to look up the alley, my view was blocked by the over grown lawns of neglected rehab projects. Dust swirled up forming a tornado like force, converging towards us. Our house was at the end of the alley. There would be nowhere else for them to go. The smoke from their anger marched towards the center. Crunching gravel pieces of tortured aluminum more shattering glass precede the swarm marching to the tune of destruction. I held tighter to my broom, watched with great anxiety my sheets dancing playfully in the wind wondering, if it were possible to stop this growing madness as it pulled innocence into their vortex? The unexpected break in the sudden heat lulled us to a place near tranquility. Yet they were coming-invading. None of us had asked for this intrusion, yet it was there, cursing, smashing and tearing at the threads of our carefully sewn fabric. No one living in these drug ravaged ruins could afford this corner of the American Dream. We all made do. Then they came without warning, intruding on our carefully constructed peace.
I could just barely see the tip of the funnel getting closer-soon two doors down. The freshly painted garage splintered, car windows crashed with a resounding echo. The rush of chaos following the man, a husband, a father, out of his back door slamming angrily towards them was blinder than the fury that created the madness. Two doors away, standing on crunching concrete in the midst of despair, they stood eye to eye. Although he had no idea of his crimes they knew and did not wait to pass judgment. I held my breath waiting for the verdict. There was no need-out here in the wastelands their brand of justice is swift and to the point.
He could barely speak the language, yet words were not necessary for the moment unfolding. Anger brewing to rage tinged with fear poured through his eyes, wildly taking in the damage. Arms failing about his shouts and foreign curses tried without much success to rise above their laughter echoing through the alley with wicked clarity. It was contrast at its best or perhaps worst. One man, so enveloped in rage and hatred he can not see himself slipping past the boundaries of reason and them a swarm our future that had been taught neither reason nor boundaries. He could barely speak the language-yet knew enough. Their laughter at his broken speech flung at him them fell with a thud at their feet and did nothing to halt their blind assault. He pointed to his damaged property, desperately fought for an explanation. Their silence was perhaps more than he could bear. They shrugged a collective salute to indifference and tried to push past them.
We’re at the end of the block there was no place else for them to go. Then in a moment that flashed quicker than a summer rain, that word.
He barely spoke the language, yet that word doesn’t demand pure command.
Did time stop in our alley? No, our world just stood still, all other activity came to a crashing stop. That word boomed over the crumbling concrete through the splinters of broken glass finally coming to a rest in the very core of their being. In one fluid motion they turned. He said it again, emphasizing the contempt it held. Darkness closed in like doors bolted against a predicted storm. Sunlight quickly faded making room for whatever was about to happen.
They did not go quietly, could not allow his action to go unchallenged. That word could not, would not be stilled with a casually tossed and hollowed apology. Even if he could speak the language, that knowledge would not pierce their armor nor stop the bullet.
It was what they were trained to do. Answer all wrongs, real or imagined with a decisive blow. Stop all questions of right or wrong with violence. And it was as it had been, over and done with. They fled through my fence, not bothering to unlatch the rusted gate. As quickly as they came, they vanished. Disappearing into the ruins leaving destruction and death.
I was still clutching my broom, watching my sheets in the wind listening to the thudding of my heart. Sirens wailed in the distance mingled with cries of grief and shouts of disbelief. It was maddening. The noise of violence, the aftermath of brutality.
“Yes, I knew them,” I wanted to tell the officer, reluctantly arriving to the scene. But I ended up telling him, “No, I’d never seen them before.”
Later I wondered, did I or didn’t I know them? This group or some other one? Did it really matter? For weren’t they just a part of the whole? Hadn’t we created them? Our society so depleted of boundaries, so lapsed in reason-hadn’t we bred them to be exactly what we hid from? Didn’t we strip them of every possible hope and desire that left them what we saw? Prowling the streets, swarming through our peace reeking with rage. Were we ultimately responsible for the pieces of shattered glass, splinters of wood and twisted bits of aluminum spread out at our feet? Collectively?
Had we created such a world of have nots, so obliterated innocence rendering them powerless that this was their revenge, our punishment? Can it be that simple or simply that difficult?
As I listened to the sirens fade into another day in the ruins, I tried not to think about it, yet could think of nothing else.
Where’s the line between us and them? And when did it get so blurred, smeared almost to be unrecognizable
Slowly the day eased into evening, I gathered my sheets from the line, folded them carefully, neatly putting them away for the next time.