Someone will hear something said, step up to anyone on the street, inquire. They're going to do a deal. My cousin works there. Everyone nods and eventually the group dissolves, the elements reforming on down the road.
Almost any sound will bring a pause, and everyone will look towards it. There are fewer vehicles, and inside them faces look grim. They do not look out at us, those who are able to ride in autos. "Hear anything yet?" is the most common greeting on every street.
It isn't clear what we're waiting for. Nobody knows how we arrived at where we are. Everything just stopped. All scheduled events weren't canceled, they just didn't happen. Groceries and markets are still open, and there's no rush anymore. We've in some sort of slow-burn emergency, but we continue the same day and night for weeks now, so the anxiety is low-key.
Milling in front of store windows where nothing is for sale except for perishables. The power doesn't work in houses so we come into the street to find where broadcasts are happening. In furniture and convenience stores, with speakers high up above the show windows. We stand on the street to silently watch and listen. Announcements are sporadic and brief.
They tell us of plans. We are going to package our debt, we were told recently.
"We will attempt to lease the deficit to other nations which we don't owe already. There is an electronic auction in Canada. It is suspected good will come of this initiative from Mrs Margaret O'Connell of Peach Street. Thank you, Mrs O'Connell."
It will be like all the rest of them. They have ideas sent to them by Concerned Citizens. They say they will implement the plan. Then they come back in some days.
"It was actually not a good plan from Mrs O'Connell. It would be like selling the hangover and not the party. We expect more of our citizens. This will never do."
Then we will hear out of the speakers:
"Mr Magruder has suggested that if all citizens were to take turns dragging on a large treadmill, then power would be restored. We could then export what we don't need to our creditors. Thank you, Mr Magruder."
We watch the guy who is the only one we will see all day and into the night who is smiling. It is like a hasty drawing of a smile, however. It is unnerving that the only notions for correcting whatever has gone wrong come from individuals writing to the station.
The central, maybe only, state of our being is anxiety tamped down just below panic. The children still play in the park, but it's as if they are at a funeral. They know something is sad, but not what, and nobody is able to tell them. How do you tell a kid that everything just stopped?
Some will begin, "I tell you, if only we'd ..." and then someone else will always cut him off. "There's no need to go over the past. What's done is done."
We had grown accustomed to the noises in our town, of course, but what we hear now is often unfamiliar; sometimes ... disturbing. A sort of rumble, a muffled concussion, and always just beyond sight. We all stop and wait, everyone quiet, but it will not repeat. We are waiting for a repetition of an unintelligible noise, is what.
The women seem most patient, are the most assured. They keep us up, tell us we'd better and we ought to and don't let this or be sure of that. They are marvelous. I don't know what the men would do without them, nor the kids, although nobody believes any steps we take will ever make the slightest difference.
"Mrs Kinoffka of Liberty Street has an idea that throwing wide our borders and allowing everyone in will dillute our difficulty like how a cesspool be cleaned by a creek in a storm. Thank you, Mrs Kinoffka!"
I remember the countenance of my mother in her casket. Her hard last days had left her looking like her stern elder sister. And there was the begger with her child in the market that year, Mazatlán, her face a mask of woe. The torero, Eloy Cavazos, on missing with the sword, lays over the back of the animal and moans to the heavens.
It's a very common expression now.