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December 12, 2010

J and I live in a tiny neighborhood at the foot of the U.N. in Midtown Manhattan. It’s shaped like a bracket, literally a ], and we live on the top arm. There’s only one way in and one way out, so when emergency vehicles are called–for electrified manhole covers, kitchen fires, people in distress–the neighborhood quickly chokes. We watched this evening as nineteen trucks arrived, spanning almost the entire way around the bracket. Nineteen trucks! We’ve lived here for almost nine years, and I’ve never seen so many emergency vehicles here. As firefighters crowded under the awning of the building on the corner, J, the cats, and I crowded at our two bedroom windows to watch. Naturally we were worried, then curious, then simply awestruck by the beauty of nineteen trucks’ worth of red, yellow, and white lights twinkling along a rainy street, then cautious about using the word “twinkling” in an emergency, then hungry.

J peeled away to order us Mexican food, and I remembered that the last time we witnessed an emergency, it was also raining. We were outside then, walking in midtown just a few blocks away, when a car skidded through an intersection, hit a phone booth, and flipped over onto the sidewalk. And I remembered how scared I was then, but not for the driver of the car–for J as he rushed in to help. And I remembered how strange I felt later that I hadn’t worried for the fate of the driver and any passengers, because so many emergency vehicles arrived so quickly, but I had worried for J because I thought if something happened to him, none of the emergency personnel would know because they would be so focused on the car and its occupants that his potential injuries would go untreated. And I remembered that when we finally peeled from that scene and walked carefully towards home, I asked to stop in at the local diner where I ordered Mexican food and shook so hard I couldn’t spoon my chili.

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