Friday, September 02, 2011
Like a freight train.
That's the cliche and it's true. Ask anyone who's heard the roar that precedes a tornado and they will tell you. Depending on whom you ask, some will volunteer more. A hiss in the air, vibrating against your skin. The sky sinking so close to the ground it looks like a second earth. The explosions.
It's the wind that makes that roar. The same wind that pulls apart houses from the inside out. Depending on whom you ask, some will say nothing at all.
The day of the tornado, paramedics asked a woman in a Birmingham emergency room where she was from; she replied, "Yesterday, I would've said Pratt City. Now I don't know." Areas of Tuscaloosa and the rest of Alabama affected by the tornadoes last spring have been mostly cleared but not repaired. The same could be said for many of the people.
When you come from Alabama, you are accustomed to certain things carrying their weight merely because they were there before you were. A town's most popular restaurant might serve awful food. The worst singer in the choir might murder the solo. Our shortcut might take twenty more minutes than the new highway. We are loathe to clean the slate, much less have it cleaned for us.
During the season, you can always spot the alums back for their first game after a long absence. They become lost looking for landmarks that aren't there and wander toward solid walls expecting them to part. Whatever Tuscaloosa has become in their absence is not the one they know. Their city of memory is gone and you can feel their mourning. This season, everyone's a stranger here.
It is too much to ask a football team to lighten such people's burdens. It is irrational to ask young men who, at this point in their lives, know as much about a game as they do anything else to live up to these people's best expectations. It is foolish to ask such a violent game to bring so many people an afternoon of bliss.
Yet, greedy, irrational fools we have always been, so we ask anyway. It is too late to change us.
Tomorrow, though the work must continue, the rebuilding resume, and the donations accrue, for but a few hours we close the door on the other world. Our troubles will be waiting for us upon our return; they always are. But for now, we must embrace our serious silly business of football.
Welcome to Oz.