Yesterday, I was toiling away in the local outpost of the Great Corporate Salt Mine – now located in Chez Elisson itself! - when, of a sudden, the phone rang. It was my overseer.
The occasional call from the Corporate Overseer is a necessary evil of Big Bidnis Life. As such, I answered the phone with my usual cheery voice.
You know that it’s not going to be a pleasant conversation when Boss-Man’s opening words – after a few perfunctory pleasantries – are “I have some bad news…” Oh, shit, thought I. Evil Tidings are never good, but Evil Tidings from your boss are downright scary.
Hmm. All kinds of possibilities, none of them good.
There’s a problem with my expense account.
I’m being transferred…to Beaumont, Texas.
I need to write a fifty-page PowerPoint presentation by 3:00 pm.
But it was none of these things. It was much worse…
The bad news had to do not with me but with a colleague. Said colleague had, along with his fiancée, gone out to a big holiday dinner the previous evening – one of those black-tie affairs for the benefit of some charitable organization or another. Afterward, they had come back to her townhome, whereupon some twenty-something thug son of a bitch kicked in the door, robbed them, and shot them both down in cold blood. They died on the spot.
The young woman lived in a neighborhood west of downtown Sweat City, a formerly rough part of town that is undergoing a certain amount of gentrification. It’s not very far from where I settled in when I first moved to Houston 31 years ago; it’s also not far from Greenwood Cemetery, where Howard Hughes is buried. Serious crime has not been a big issue there in recent years, but there has been a city-wide upswing in violent crime in recent months. It’s easy to attribute that upswing to the recent influx of Katrina displacees, but there’s probably more to it than that.
Not that the whys and wherefores matter much to my colleague.
It’s purely remarkable how one’s emotions can jump from Huzzah! to Shit! in the space of a nanosecond. The relief at knowing that the bad news had nothing to do with me was instantaneously transformed to grief.
Here was a couple all of four months away from getting married. Here was a guy with a thirteen-year-old daughter by a previous marriage. A guy with whom I had worked closely last year. There was a picture on my credenza not five feet away, a picture taken last December, of the two of us receiving a Great Corporate Salt Mine Global Award for a project we did together.
Gone, in a stupid instant. Gut-shot: a horrible way to die. Did the thug bastard shoot him first? Or did he have to watch as his fiancée was shot in the face?
Damn. I’ve expounded only recently on the matter of Dodging Bullets. But now it was more than a figure of speech; it was a task, a task at which my friend and his bride-to-be had failed.
O, what a world!
May the souls of my friend and his fiancée be bound up in the bond of life, and may they rest in peace.