Neither Here Nor There

The town had over 27,000 people, but it looked a lot smaller on TV. Quaint colonial facades. More stop signs than stop lights. It had rained, and the night streets were greasy and dark, like the back of a whale emerging from the depths.

“Hey –” I interrupted the TV – “they have the same weather we do” – but it didn’t listen, just kept showing and telling. A building resembled one in my hometown, a man reminded me of a former neighbor, until the only difference was our children had not been massacred.

Pictures of and flowers for the victims made a colorful, messy mound, like a melting birthday cake, topped with candles that no one wanted to blow out. The news anchor waved his microphone as a cattle prod and magic wand, asking citizens questions about how they would begin to heal.

“Oh, I have something to show you,” said my Grandma, taking several sitting starts at getting up off the couch, which was crinkly leather and deep red and looked like the lips at the beginning of Rocky Horror Picture Show and with one flick of its tongue could swallow her whole. She teetered out, pulling down her sweater. She teetered in, holding up a child’s baptism gown.

“It’s made from Nancy’s wedding dress.” Grandma’s daughter, Nancy, died of cancer when she was in her thirties; her son, Joel, was murdered in his thirties; now his brother, Dom, will be fathering a daughter in his thirties.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, touching the shroud of dry cleaning plastic.

Two days later it snowed. Fat clusters of flakes, like new Weight Watchers members holding on to one another as they parachuted down. It wrapped everything in white, but it wasn’t a good wrapping job; you could tell exactly what everything was. I think it was supposed to be that way.