When I was a kid, I just assumed everyone wanted to be a writer, like I did. I didn’t realize that most people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about putting words on paper in a way that would affect others. When I finally figured out that there was a difference, I wondered what separated “us” from “them”. Here’s what I came up with: Writers are people who are always, always, always asking, “What if…?”.
Early this morning, there was a cop car parked on my street. I live in a fairly genteel neighborhood; we don’t see a lot of police presence. The “what if” part of my brain immediately kicked in. I spent a really pleasant half hour or so conjecturing. Who were the police visiting? The single guy down the block, who’s extremely nice and always just a little baked? The family with 2 skateboarding teenagers (you just know that where skateboards go, shenanigans follow)? The lesbian couple 2 doors down, whose fight the other night came to blows (albeit rather girly ones)? That sketchy house at the end of the block, the one with dead cars parked out back, that looks like it’s the answer to the game, “One of these things is not like the others.”?
Nope. Turns out they were right next door.
My neighbors were robbed. They were broken into, sometime yesterday morning or afternoon. I was home all day yesterday. I have a huge, uncurtained window that faces their house. I can hear every car door slam, every set of footsteps on their porch. I never noticed anything.
I always assumed that if something ever happened here, my neighbors would hear it. Someone would notice my door hanging open, hear my screams, smell smoke. I need to assume this. Because while the “what if” game can provide some really great ideas for stories, it can also make for some sleepless nights, while you conjure up a variety of horrific tragedies that can/will befall you and your family. And now I have this ugly little piece of evidence that smashes my assumption to hell.
Yes, I do realize that robberies happen all the time. And no one was hurt; I’m sure all the stolen items are covered by insurance. It’s just that I’m having to let go of yet another flimsy construct that I’d been using to get by. For Mother’s Day, all I want are some new smoke alarms and better locks. Something slightly less flimsy to pin my hopes on.