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Briefing book

April 12, 2017

That afternoon was three parts cloudy, with spatters of rain landing like spittle launched from a high balcony. He waited for the barista to make his coffee, the lines in his face deeper than usual.

For days, he had worked on the briefing book he hoped might stop the impending invasion, sleeping on his office sofa in a rumpled shirt and khakis for a few hours at a time before diving back in.

No one would read the book, but he wanted, someday, to be able to say he’d thrown words in the face of the the oncoming storm.

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The wall between us

April 11, 2017

There might be places where one can slip back and forth from Mexico like a jackrabbit in the desert. There might be letters about eminent domain arriving in poorly located mailboxes. But here, in America, we long ago built gerrymandered walls between the ones who think we’re getting greater, and those who gnash their teeth at our demise.

Far from any boundary, I walk past a car bumper decorated with a particular sticker. The barrier between us is so real, I could put up my hand and feel the cold steel of it along the curb between us.

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The chance to cross paths

April 10, 2017

At the play for preschoolers, another mother and I commented throughout, giggled at our children’s behavior, shook hands at the end, introduced ourselves last, as if we needed to go through all the rest before we moved beyond the label proscribed by birthing.

I murmured her name again and again on the way to the car, defying my exhaustion-addled memory, committing it so I might retrieve it if I see her next season.

And yet, in the car, I remembered the weekend’s news. I wondered if we’d have the chance to cross paths again before everything goes to hell.

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Northbound

April 9, 2017

Deep inside a northbound carrier, a sailor played solitaire all night in his bunk, unable to put words to the anxiety that was, maybe, unfairly arising. After all, he signed up for this, and you don’t join the military without accepting the possibility of war. But the cards felt like they were falling differently this time, and the stakes felt far higher than he had ever expected.

Batten down the hatches, a friend had said in the mess over dinner. This is going to be one heck of a storm.

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Improvisation

April 8, 2017

In jazz, improvisation weaves the pluck of the bass to the scat of the saxophone, off-time chords riffed along the piano, the hiss of the brush on the high hat. The music spins up something magic, glistening, beautiful.

Some leaders can improvise equally magical strategy, spinning diplomacy like silk. But when leaders are simply unpredictable, decisions become cacophony, actions become noise. There is no artistry in change for change’s sake.

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The upward trajectory

April 7, 2017

The missiles launch with a pop and a hiss, like fireworks at the ballpark, like a bottle of champagne opening at a party. They arc skyward, lighting up the American flag as they pass, then disappearing off into the distance like bright, hot birds.

These days, the Navy posts videos to YouTube, one-sided excerpts of the execution of a plan hatched in a dark, screenlit room. We only see the upward trajectory, the positive flight. No one films the landing, the damage, the last breaths of the recipients of this particular message.

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The after

April 6, 2017

They talked of ghosts in the woods. I think I saw one like a sparrow, she said, but it has been so long since we’ve seen real birds, I can hardly remember.

He remembered the spring blooms in the desert, the wildflower hikes he took with his parents along mountain paths. Sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever see something real again, he said. Sometimes I wonder why our parents had us. Didn’t they know what was about to happen?

They probably couldn’t imagine the after, she said. And now, we can’t imagine what it was like before.