Excerpt from the Book...
Pure ordinariness on our homeward journey: unmolested houses, cars parked in driveways, waiting on yelping kids and grocery-laden wives. The atmosphere was like those rare mornings I'd shoved myself out of bed at dawn to power-walk/run/jog some extra pounds away, and found I was enjoying it; when the world feels fresh, and yours alone.
But this familiar landscape was also foreign. Pointing out a spire on a pretty colonial place, I saw that in fact it was the tail of a small aircraft that had nosedived so cleanly into the roof, you'd think the two had been deliberately fused to entertain passers-by. A blue blur flickered through the curtains at the front window.
"Wow," I said, "TV and power."
Debris scattered the road periodically: shoes, smashed eye-glasses, crumpled shirts and underwear. Yes, underwear. I averted my eyes, but not quickly enough. The details are unimportant; what I will say is that in the case of some men, the Lord had clearly decided on the basis of spiritual, rather than physical hygiene.
As we neared downtown, the streets betrayed the day's confusion. Tumbleweeds of discarded wrappers stumbled in the wind. Smashed soda and beer bottles littered the gutters, and the sidewalks too. An abandoned station wagon blocked the intersection of Sullivan and Anchor, hazard lights flashing, the doors jug-eared. A wheat truck had plowed into a liquor store, hemorrhaging its yellow cargo. The air smelled sugary, tipsy somehow. We passed a ShopRite, then a hardware store; every window in both was smashed. The glass fragments our tires crunched over resembled diamonds. With my bare feet, I felt especially vulnerable, so we moved into the middle of the street to avoid flat tires. Trash there too: giant bags of Fritos, split and crushed like they'd been jumped on, colorful kids' clothes half-unfurled from little plastic hangers; an electric drill, the orange cord curling like a snake's tail. You felt as if a giant party had been raging only moments before, and that the revelers had suddenly decided they were in danger, and had fled in a panic.
Some stragglers skittered by, unkempt and furtive. One woman pushed a shopping cart towards us down the center line of Anchor Street. We separated to let her through, nodding a hello; the cart contained a DVD player and a large stuffed toy elephant. After we passed, she shouted, "Get some Pampers too, I need Pampers!" I was thinking I didn't have Pampers but her friend materialized in the jagged window of a 7-Eleven, waving the diapers, and grinning.
A huddle of people knelt outside a shuttered McDonald's, praying. "Too late for you," I thought, then corrected myself, ". . . for us."
It struck me then, an urgent desire to ride into the sky with Rachel. We would ascend, feeling only air beneath us, fearless, occasionally looking down at this ever-distant chaos.
I muttered, "You want to be E.T."
We pedaled on. A cat strutted along a wall, and hissed. An empty wheelchair lay overturned on the sidewalk. "Probably gone up," said Rachel. I wanted to believe that too.