Some people swore that the house was haunted. Pedestrians, heads down, felt an odd shiver as they passed it, on the way to their ordinary lives. The feeling that went up their spines was not the result of a poltergeist however, and would never have made the plot of a Hitchcock movie. The thing that repelled most people from this house, the palpable thing in the air that chilled one, was sadness.
The house had the look of a grieving soul. It’s frame looking ready to collapse, burdened by some unseen weight. She looked out her front window and longed for ordinary. She prayed for her ordinary life to come back on a daily basis. She remembered rushing to go to the grocery store after work, the kiss at the back steps every evening. The smell of his neck as they embraced…she wanted to smell him again. Drowning in grief and self-pity, she wondered if this was the day it would all stop.
She had locked herself in a suburban prison for the last five years, hell-bent on a life sentence. She had created her own form of cosmic punishment for living, for breathing in and out every day. In her world food had no taste, flowers were devoid of color and sadness was a badge she wore on a dirty smock. Self-loathing was her hobby and she had become quite adept at it. She didn’t abuse drugs or alcohol, they would mask the sadness…she wanted to feel every particle of it. She wallowed in sadness and refused to allow anything or anyone to deny her. Sadness welcomed her to each new day and was lying beside her each night.
Like the rest of the world, she was stunned to see the second plane hit the tower. Anger flushed her face as she, like everyone else, surmised this was a planned terror attack on America. She watched TV non-stop most days, but even for her, leaving it on for three straight days was unusual. The pictures were what did it, the photographs stuck to every sign, telephone pole, and wall in New York. The faces of the lost met her gaze in the sad house. She heard her own voice come out of the survivors on the television. The desperation, the prayers, the tears flowed from them over loved ones that were never coming home. She ached for the people she did not know, she cried for America.
After a couple of days of being mesmerized at the television, she realized something. She had stopped wallowing in self-pity and was actually thinking of others. Her hands started to shake as she began to think about leaving the house. She would drive as far as they would allow her, and then set out on foot. She didn’t know what she would do, hand out water, pick up trash, it didn’t matter. She had to get down there and lend a hand to help the people of New York.
Pulling out of the drive-way she looked at the front of the house and slammed on the brakes, exited the car, and ran back inside. She unfurled the flag and placed it in the holder mounted on her porch. The stars and stripes flapped sharply in the September air. She trotted back to her car and took off towards the city. The man walked by and looked at the house with the flag out front; she passed him in her car. The two of them exchanged waves and knowing smiles. Nothing was ever the same again after that.