Last night, I stumbled onto a crime scene. I was walking past the Apple Store after work just after a random stabbing spree had ended in front. As the news is reporting, some guy went crazy for reasons unknown and simply started stabbing people with a three-inch folding knife in a trendy eyeglass store. Then he attacked people in the restaurant next door, and then in the small plaza on 9th Avenue. Four were stabbed. Six held him down until the cops came. The dozens of us on the east side sidewalks were simply shaken.
I wasn’t there for the violence; I came as the cops and the ambulances did. But the scene was morbid, the air was heavier than even the brutal humidity, and the witness who told me in detail–and with a strange excitement–about the mayhem, relayed an account graphic enough to make last night’s sleep a restless one.
I still have the picture of the two store employees in my head, a man and a woman fearful and wide-eyed behind the glass door, protected less than adequately by only a thin line of yellow crime scene tape surrounding the entrance.
This morning I woke up early (too early) feeling that perhaps it was one of those small gifts from the universe–one of those moments in life that makes you reassess what’s important. Sometimes they’re big obvious events like 9/11, sometimes they’re scary near misses like the midtown crane collapse a block from my parents. Or sometimes they’re happy things, like your first-born turning five.
I have this sort of mantra–a stupid one maybe–that you could be hit by a bus any day, and that’s why I don’t drink Diet Coke.
(I’d hate to think of my last drink on earth being anything but a good black-and-white milkshake in fact, but I don’t think my thighs could handle the challenge.)
My mother puts it another way: She tells the story of a friend of hers who wanted a boat his whole life. He dreamed about it. He talked about it incessantly. He cut out photos of it and collected sailing magazines and dog-earred the corners. Everyone in his life knew that boat was his greatest wish.
And then, if I’m remembering this correctly, he died.
“Buy the boat,” my mother always says.
Buy the boat.