Times of Crisis

Some people thrive in crisis situations. I am one of those people. I’ve developed an immunity.

It’s not that we are cruel, or hardhearted, or apathetic to the suffering of humanity, although this could be true in varying degrees. Don’t you see? It’s just all relative. That which we choose to suffer over is always going to be nothing in the infinite scheme of the universe.

I take pleasure in when anything false or fake or illusory is stripped away. This society, this illusion of normalcy, of civilization, of orderly patterns and algorithms of our meaningless days — sitting in traffic, going to an unfulfilling job to be treated like you are less than human for less than just enough return to survive, sitting in traffic again, paying bills, ignoring your family while they ignore you — this is the illusion that everything is running smoothly. But, by God, we have toilet paper. A man is providing for his family as long as there is toilet paper. Have you never had to go without? I ask. I used to enjoy picking which celebrity’s face I could use for that particular purpose, chosen from the newspaper of the stars.

My ex, Will, used to say that the most confirmed atheist will cry out “God save me!” in his dying moments. I disagree. But, despite being a raving lunatic, he was right about a lot of things.

During a crisis, all the superfluous, stupid things of this world fall away. It is there that you find truth. You see things for what they really are, a sleeping beast of chaos, and it is in that moment that you know what truly matters. Maybe it IS God. Maybe it is your kids, your friends, your love… and you will do anything to protect those things. It’s not about the money. 

My long-time friend came into the bathroom while I was brushing my teeth. Leslie is more of a messy domestic goddess, while I am the neurotic cleaner and organizer.

“I may have made a terrible mistake,” she says.

There were no eggs left in the deserted grocery store. So she offered, online, to trade her fresh baked bread for eggs. There were more responses than she could handle.

“I’ll never use that many eggs!”

This could go one of two ways. I’m so happy that the family has established some kind of barter system with the neighborhood. It’s a start. But, with the shelves being wiped clean of bread, I told her now we will have to fortify before there is a run on her bread.

These kinds of things are the true test of humanity. And if it turns out beautiful or ugly (both, I imagine) at least it will be real.


First published in print by Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art Digest Vol. 1, 2019

On a stretch of State Road 37, people started falling from the sky. At the exact same time, the left front tire hit a jagged chasm left by the road construction crew. The pop and swish did not come. I eased the car into the emergency lane. The damage wasn’t visible, but chances were a new tire was in order.

They dropped around me. The people came down with a soft hiss. Some of them rolled, got up, and started walking. Some stayed where they fell. I dialed Carmen’s number. She picked up before the first ring could die on its own.

“Don’t even think about it.” 


“It’s mandatory and there’s free catered lunch. You and I, we’re the spokeswomen for our region.” Beep. She hung up.

It took more skilled driving than I had in me to swerve around the fallen. When they hit the windshield, they bounced. It took an extra half hour to get to the hotel. I jabbed at the buttons until the sluggish doors rolled closed and the elevator shuddered to the tenth floor.

The guest presenter was from headquarters. Morning session was a mind-numbing lecture and review of the new materials, which were the same as the old ones, but with more typos. I sipped my free coffee. It burned my lips.

“In the consideration of time, we will have a working lunch,” the guest presenter announced. Surprise. Chairs ground against the tile. There was a general shuffling toward the catered spread. Outside, people drifted past the windows like snowflakes.

Afternoon session is Q & A. Other people on my team, who I never had much reason to interact with, rip apart every single sinew of the new materials like Vikings with a turkey leg. Then, the Q & A spun into a fable, a retelling of every variation of circumstance that had ever happened since the birth of the corporation. I start drawing shapes on my palm with a paperclip. A man in jeans floats past the plate glass.

“Your time is coming.” 

Beckett said this, two summers ago. He flipped my palm, and put the tip of his thumb there, drew a circle. “Look at you. You have the whole world right here.”

His thumb scuffed against my life line. The hairs on my arm stood up, because he was the electric socket to my wires. Or was it the other way around?

He was probably watching the real snow come down in his yard in Richmond. After he ghosted, he became a new man. Drifters weren’t supposed to become a new man right away. Probably he was doing something ridiculous, something completely unlike him. He looks out his front window, clutches a coffee mug, World’s Best This-or-That. The Asian girl walks up behind him and hugs his waist. He has a beard down to here, and they are both smiling. Now she goes out to drizzle seeds for the chickadees pecking in the snow. How small and naive she is, as she scatters the seeds. The paperclip digs into my palm. It leaves white marks on the callous there. People fall and fall.

“And finally, we want you to know how vital each one of you is to the safety and security of the people in this country. Let’s wrap it up, and drive safely!”

Team members crowd the elevator. “Hope this clears up soon. Heh, heh. Got a tournament Saturday.”

“It’s my anniversary, a little something special… .”

I attempt some small pleasantry in the parking garage, but they are out of earshot. The empty lot sprouts weeds through cracks in the concrete. At the far end, my lonely busted car sits.

People are falling. One lands at my feet, a man somewhere between fifty and sixty. In the city, all the faces remind you of somebody. Not this one. He does not remind me of anyone. His face is baggy with dark eye circles, and his gut bulges beneath the buttons of a black pea coat. He folds to his knees. He does not get up, or lie down, but stays in-between. His expression is trapped between shaking a fist at heaven and lying down to face eternity.

I set my bag down and stick an arm under his elbow. I wouldn’t say I lift, and I wouldn’t say he pulls up, but somehow he is standing. I don’t ask where he has been, and he doesn’t ask where I’m going.

“Mischka,” he says, and nods. He turns his back and toddles down the avenue. I start my car and bump on the bad tire toward home. The radio predicts a clearing by nightfall, with a chance of fog.