The sky lightens, slowly, and I watch the grey through the crack in the window I left open last night. I can't stand to not feel the air when the ocean is near. I inhale, deeply, and let the salt fill my lungs. The top bunk where I lie isn't the sturdiest bed on which I've rested my head and each time I adjust, turn over, or fidget, the frame sways as if I'm at sea.
I hear the jangle of dog collars in the hallway outside of my door. I've escaped my regular life for two nights and my friends also brought dog friends. The swaying of the bed is finally more than I can stand, being prone to seasickness as I am, and I hoist myself up and to the edge. I look down, thinking the person responsible for the design ought to be sent out to sea. Dark when I climbed into bed last night, I hadn't noticed a ladder and, this morning, I jump down as if I am jumping for my life. And then I see the ladder. I laugh at my tunnel vision. As a writer, I observe. When I am incapable of observing, my well of energy is clearly empty.
Later, my friend says, "I'm not sure if I am relaxed or if I am bored." I agree and comment that feeling bored might be healthy for women like us. It is mid-afternoon and other than a slightly brighter glow, the grey sky is as grey as it was this morning. Looking at the bay and then, beyond, at the ocean, I feel small but not in an insignificant way. Small in a this is such a big world and I'm so grateful to be alive kind of way.
The home decorating magazine calls my name. I flip through page after page of photos of furniture with prices that begin in the mid-four digits. I tear out a couple of pages not because I will spend that kind of money but because the colors are pleasing to my eyes and will provide inspiration the next time I wander the aisles of a thrift or vintage shop. A few of the colors match the grey outside and, after years of craving bright, bold colors, the grey is soothing, comforting, mine.
I sit near the landline phone to talk with a colleague because cell service is nonexistent. When he first calls, I have to place the phone on the surface near the base because a cord is involved and I need a chair. As we proceed, I stare out the window and talk with him about people, about intention, about how most of what is happening isn't about either of us.
We're all doing the best we can, we agree.
Texting with a dear friend about a completely different subject, a little later, he replies with, "Have you heard about the terrorism situation(s) in Paris? Unbelievable." It is 2:32 pm. I quickly type, "I haven't. Googling now." Then, I type, "Holy fucking shit." My jaw drops as I read the few stories available.
Paris is chaos. I struggle to compute the words on my small screen. 18 are dead. Multiple attacks. A soccer game, a concert, a cafe; the targets are ordinary places. I zoom in on a map embedded in one of the stories and notice one of the markers is just blocks away from where I participated in a Bikram yoga class in June of last year. I walked through the neighborhood now under siege. I stood on one of the streets now awash with blood. I don't understand.
28 people are dead. One friend finishes a conference call. I try to explain. She doesn't understand, either. Another friend returns from a trip to town for cell service. We read the instructions for the television, a feature we didn't expect to use, hungry for information. We each focus on more than one screen. We read headlines aloud. Our jaws drop again and again.
"I wonder if this is what the rest of the world felt like on 9/11," I say. My words are formed as a question but it isn't really an inquiry. It is a statement of fact that when extremists decide to kill, we all ache. We keen, we mourn, we fixate on the bloodshed as we struggle to understand.
The reporters are speaking in nonsensical terms. We're pretty sure they say the same words over and over, just in a different order. We mute the sound and instead read the captioning. 100 dead. Dozens dead. 100 plus hostages. Are they getting the numbers confused? Is 100 just a round number that is easy to use?
"Don't the people with the guns have to demand something for it to be a hostage situation? We have to create a new word," I say. "They don't want anything. Other than to kill." More words scroll across the screen. Two attackers have been neutralized. What is neutralized? Are they dead?
Facebook has a new feature to help people notify the world they are safe.
Four attackers have been shot. 118 bystanders are dead.
"They stood in the back of the theater and shot us. They didn't move because they didn't have to. They shot us like we were birds."
I hear the voice of the the man for whom Friday the 13th will never arrive without flashbacks.
Five attackers are dead.
One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, where I stood with my older son, in awe, a month ago, glows red, white, and blue. Not the red, white, and blue of our flag, the U.S. flag; the red, white, and blue of France's flag. Solidarity. The kind of solidarity neither country's citizens want to feel.
I read and read, desperate for a sign of hope. A bystander shares the story of more than 60 individuals, out on the town to watch a concert, who were saved from the shooting spree by ordinary citizens. Terrified fans were pulled out of the fray, onto a nearby roof or into an adjacent apartment. There were helpers, in the words of Mr. Rogers.
After the assailants are dead, the physically unharmed survivors are wrapped in shiny metallic material, the kind marathoners wear after finishing a race. Their eyes are blank. They load onto buses without asking questions.
120 are dead. More than 200 individuals are wounded.
153 are dead, 112 within the concert venue. Faces of fans within the soccer stadium, a distant location in relation to the concertgoers, are forever frozen in terror in images that will cycle on repeat as newscasters struggle to share new news with an international audience hungry for more information.
Men without shirts are tucked into ambulances. Why aren't they wearing shirts?
I like bows tied prettily around stories. I seek logical conclusions. Tonight there is no bow, it is not pretty, and it sure as hell is not logical.
Last year, my sons prayed at a church in Paris. Praying is not something we do all of the time. Tonight feels like a night for prayer, no matter our individually identified recipient. To be human, tonight, means replacing despair with hope. Fighting back against the ominous grey means finding hope. I'm not sure I am there, yet, but I'm trying.