I begin gathering my things—the day is nearly through and the rest of the world is anxious to get home, sleep, and start it all over again tomorrow. I’m not so anxious, but I’m used to the pattern so I conform to its rhythms, gently placing my notebooks into a knapsack that doubles as a grocery bag on Sundays.
I exit the cafe alone, and hardly anyone looks away from their screens as I walk by them—we’re almost at the point of just being shadows the way we wander past one another predictably unnoticed. I step outside and again regret having forgotten my umbrella. Instead I am trapped within the cold, damp embrace of what a discount clothing website confidently referred to as a rain jacket, but is in fact about as waterproof as a summer dress. Arms folded and head turned toward the smoking puddles, I turn left to get back to the main street that is crowded with poking umbrellas and sloshing boots—everyone at least sharing in the same hurried agony that is a sudden rainstorm.
My vision is clouded by the constant flow of rain boots rushing past me in all directions so that I can hardly tell which feet are my own. I look up for a moment and catch the glance of a man in soaked leather loafers, miserable no doubt, but you wouldn’t know it from his eyes—they were cold, concentrated, determined. I imagine that my eyes too conveyed the same selfish determination to get through the crowd as fast as possible. He passed and I went on walking and weaving, not looking to any other faces to exchange mutual sympathies.
I stop at the signal, waiting while the traffic light across the street ticks away letting herds of people cross in a single-file line while trying to avoid an enormous puddle that has taken residence in the crosswalk. Then I hear it. First just as a scream, and when I go to turn my head in unison with the world a sudden jolt rings through all of us that feels like both an earthquake and an electric shock, and suddenly everyone is falling. It reminds me of the long car rides we’d take through the winding country roads as kids, playing Jello in the back seat—heavily leaning back and forth on one another in sync with the swerving of the car. But this time we are all only falling one way, down, collapsing on top of one another like sardines pouring out of a can onto a dish, but instead of being seasoned with salt and pepper we are being dressed with glass shards and rain water.
For a moment, everything feels quiet, almost serene, until I realise it is because my ears are ringing and I open my eyes upward from the ground to see the crowds of people running hurriedly around me not from the rain but from the glass and debris that had fallen around them. And I conform again to their rhythms, being used to the patterns that we’ve been taught—I run, not knowing where to go, not really knowing what we are running from, just knowing that something is terribly wrong.
And so, like a hill of ants that has been kicked, we swarm the street running to and from one another in all directions away from the pain that has been inflicted by hate strong enough to kick us all and shatter us with the glass of broken window panes on a day that was nearly closed. And now the steam that echoes up from the pavement is in fact mixed with smoke as it billows out from a small doorway a few yards away, and this time when I look to the corners of my eyes I do find fires growing there.
Kellie Kreiss is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. She has had the opportunity to write about a diverse array of topics spanning from relationships to social development, world history, and breaking news. When she’s not writing, she spends her time hanging with her sweet calico cat, hiking, and working on too many DIY projects. Follow her on Twitter @KellieKreiss
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