Only good news comes loudly. Bad news, it seems, comes quietly, stealthily. Something to do with the nature of bad news allows it to slow time down dramatically. There can be no loud noises, clamoring, or thuds while everything is appears in soft focus, and in very slow motion.
You answer the phone and instantly the world slows down, color is drained, you can no longer hear the TV, or your company talking, or the person standing next to you asking, “What is it? What’s wrong? What’s happened?” as you slowly slide down the wall onto the floor and hold the phone out for them to take so their world can slow down too. Then you will both be slow and silent – at least for a while.
The same thing happens if you open the door to bad news. You are not expecting anyone, so even though you are in your pajamas eating a bowl of cold cereal and watching TV, you stand with trepidation – either you will have to turn away a teenager selling magazines or chocolate for some desperate fundraiser or listen politely to a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness who wants you to understand their God’s point of view. But you are about to believe there is no God, at least not one you want to know for a while.
You learn that definitively when you answer the door and there is a police officer or a sheriff with a somber look on his face. “Mrs. Williams?” he asks. It is then that time slows. The deceleration began the moment you cracked the door open to see the shiny black, steel toed shoes, the Kelly green pants held up by the thick embossed black leather belt with a holster on one side carrying a large gun. Inexplicably, you pause to think that the guns always look so much bigger to you when you see them in person, rather than on TV.
For a moment, you wonder what it would be like to walk around carrying a holstered gun all day. What it must do to the alignment of your spine? But you wouldn’t know because you do not feel like you have a spine right now. If you do it is melting. You feel it begin to melt at the top of your back, where your head meets your shoulders and as you raise your eyes from the gun-and-Billy-club-holding-holster you note the nametag on his chest reads “Phillips.” This moment will stay with you for a long time. Any time you hear the name “Phillips” you will flash on this day, this moment. The moment your life as you knew it ended, the moment your spine melted like hot wax, burning your skin and your soul and leaving you forever scarred, because this is the moment Officer Phillips says, “Mrs. Williams, I regret to inform you that your son has been killed in a motorcycle accident.”