Meaningless Numbers

Hell is where your home used to be. Hell isn’t death, but it is your anti-life. It’s your neighbor’s body in the street near the mailboxes where he used to let his dog defecate without cleaning it up. You used to loathe him for it. You’d smile and wave spitefully when you saw him in his driveway in his flip flops and black hoodie washing his Porsche. Now you just pity him. In fact, it’s only by the flip flops and hoodie that you can positively ID him. You don’t see the dog’s body anywhere. It must have run off. There’s nothing left here. Good dog.

There’d been a whisper of snow on the trees just the other day. Now they’re covered in ash, their trunks burst and splintered, all eerily bent in the same direction.

You’d never heard of a bolide before, let alone a superbolide, but you can’t listen to the news for 30 seconds anymore without hearing about the Hood River Superbolide. You’d prefer not to listen at all, but they’re tallying the damage in dollars and in debris and in dead. The numbers are all going up, and you’re paying close attention because you haven’t figured out how to calculate the damage in your own life yet. Work had taken you to Portland that morning, but what if it hadn’t? You can’t stop asking yourself: What if it hadn’t?

Even from Portland, the explosion outshined the sun. You’d seen it yourself. The 20,000-ton rock was 100 feet across and burst just 14 miles above the ground. It had been traveling at 48,800 miles per hour. But those are just numbers. You memorize them simply by hearing them repeated so often, but they don’t mean anything to you.

There’s a red Jeep Wrangler on top of your garage. It’s crumpled like an empty Coke can. It belonged to another neighbor, across the street and two doors down. You stand staring at it with your hands on your hips. You knew him—the Jeep guy—or knew his face, anyway. He would take his two boys kayaking. Your never learned any of their names. How do you measure that?

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