Criminal

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Pittsburgh, 1994.

The memory assaults me repeatedly, a soft-focused film reel sharpening in moments of stark relief, punctuated by the rat-tat-tat of the night’s gunfire rain hurling against windowpanes.

An overpass.

Stuck in traffic, wide eyed, watching.

A car on the narrow street below, the first in a long row, systematically stripped, with breathtaking precision. Wheels, stereo, door handles, battery. Then on to the next.

The breathtaking exactitude of brute force.

A ballet of devastation.

Unable to sleep, I see the same scene unfold repeatedly.

An insomniac’s intuition.

I stare into the dark, listening to the wind echo the howl I hold inside.

The sickening aftermath of betrayal burns deep in my gut, all these years later, and every time I close my eyes I see that vintage metal coffin, once shiny and new, tranformed in a matter of moments to so much junk. No way to get through to the silent inside (unless, of course, you’re willing to shatter her glass), and impossible to move.

It was preventable.

(All painful experiences are.)

Yet hindsight is not foresight.

Perhaps things are fixable.

But, stalled in place, unable to spin absent wheels, realization dawns quietly in the morning’s dissolution of the storm:

It matters not that what’s been wrecked can be rebuilt. Replacement parts will never make you whole.

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