“A Tiny Moment’s Respite From The Worst Moment Of Their Lives”

A reader writes:

I finished the Boston Marathon on Monday and was nearby when the bombings happened.  I was never near any danger and witnessed only a few secondary effects of the bombings (people splattered with others’ blood, etc.), but the memory that sticks out is one that I thought you might be interested in for your Cannabis Closet series.  Just a little glimpse into life.   Feel free to post it if you want – I’m always happy to contribute to the Dish family:

At one point, an hour or so after the attack, I was drifting away from the scene and stopped to lean on a sort of cement railing, both to rest my weary body and to just think.  From a stairwell on the other side of the railing, I smelled the distinctive scent of pot.  I looked down and saw two well-dressed women, one white and one black, taking hits from a pipe.  One was holding the lighter and shielding the wind while the other inhaled.  It was a scene of strange intimacy.  The black woman noticed that their smoke was blowing in my direction and said, “Sorry, Marathon Man.”  I said something like, “No worries.  We could all use some relief right now.”

Then they both looked up at me and their words came tumbling out:

“We work at [high-end retail store].  It was right in front of our store.”  “There were legs and feet blown off.”  “There was blood everywhere.”  “People had whole parts of them blown off.”  “I saw someone’s foot.  Just there on the ground.” “People were blown apart.” “There were body parts all over.” “Everyone was covered with blood.”  “And parts of bodies.”

At a certain point, they were finishing each other’s sentences, looking to each other for confirmation that it had actually happened.  I imagined them, being evacuated from work, totally horrified, uncertain about where to go or how to deal with what they just saw, and then one of them inviting the other into this particular stairwell, to share a little secret one of them was carrying in their purse, meant for happier use, now just providing a tiny moment’s respite from the worst moment of their lives.

I did something I almost never do: I reached out and touched them both on the shoulders, gave them a little rub and a squeeze and said, my voice surprising me by cracking, “I’m glad you two are ok,” and I walked away.