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Jack Schimmelman Headshot

Desolation at 5 A.M.

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As the fabric of life unravels above, slowly descending, casting a gray diaphanous curtain within our souls, we report to each other our search. We search for jobs, our dignity, our hearts, our joy; we seek each other, ourselves. In the stillness of 5 a.m., awakened by our pulse, the inevitable web descends. My doctor tells me that when I awake in the middle of sleep, feeling my heart pound, my mouth dry, it is because of dehydration. On this morning, however, I am awakened by a parched culture rattling with littered, bleached bones that once were luscious, vibrant lives.

A friend wrote to me recently. I have known her for two decades. We worked together as legal assistants long ago in an office for an attorney who was an arts negotiator. She had a young child, whom she was raising on her own. She had moved to New York City from Texas, hoping to make a clean beginning, away from a toxic marriage, which she left. She had just completed her Masters in Arts Administration from Columbia University, and this was the first job she could obtain after her degree. She was, and remains, very bright, skilled, compassionate and courageous. Being a single parent in New York City, after ditching a poisonous marriage thousands of miles away is, by definition, courageous. We became friends. On a somewhat mild, winter's day after a period of glacial weeks, she was laid off from her job at a New York international law firm, for which she had worked more than 15 years. This law firm is one of the largest in the country and grosses more than $1 billion annually (still). The firm has offices in so many countries that one could truly say that the sun never sets on its empire. Never mind last hired, first fired. Today in the rubble of greed, those who have worked more years, earn more, are gone in the blink of a manager's smile.

The day of her discharge, all of her courage merged with a wall of ancient stones imbued with fear. She lives near the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan; that very same bridge over which a plane had miraculously flown into a safe landing on the Hudson River just a year earlier. In the center of desolation she saw herself following that plane directly from the bridge. Her landing would not be safe. The moment passed.

As so many others, my friend balances on a precipice. She successfully raised her daughter, sent her to college and recently finished paying for her wedding, which occurred two years ago.

A shadow continues to unfold.

I believe my friend will emerge whole from the dry darkness cast by our collective curtain. I have no proof of this. I believe that our children and children's children will talk about this time in the future as a distant nightmare, as I once listened to my parents talk about their abyss, marked by the calm of another president more than 70 years ago. I have no proof of this.

Carson McCullers once wrote, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Most would agree. What keeps that hunter moving forward? I believe it is an improbable faith that the goal of our longing is just out of sight, waiting to rekindle our forgotten fires that so warm our soul. In these times when we share a sense of foreboding emerging from our hearts, we are no longer lonely hunters. Buds form in the dark. We glean their form. This is an eternal story. Falling. Rising. Ultimately, blossoming in the middle of an arid time. Each one of us knows this narrative. Unexpectedly, we are no longer lonely.