It doesn't take much: All you need to do is turn down your street, a block and a half away from your house, and notice the fire engine in the distance. Drive a little closer, and you notice a second truck, a paramedic's truck, and then a third truck...an ambulance. Calculate the distance quickly in your head. Yep. They're all parked in front of your house, all right. Is that a crowd of people? Can you see your kids in the crowd? What were they wearing this morning, anyway?
Next, pull the car over in the middle of the block before yours. You do this for two reasons: One, your street is narrow and you know you won't be able to get your car past the fire truck...not to mention it sure LOOKS like that ambulance is blocking your driveway. Two, you're about to throw up. With the car off, sit for a second and think: Should you get out of the car and run toward the commotion? No. Instead, you pick up your phone and dial your home number. Pick up, pick up, pick up. If he picks up, you're thinking, it probably means it's not him, or Em or N. Pick up, pick up, pick up. When he does, after three rings, you start to cry. It's only then that you notice your hands are shaking so violently you can't keep the phone close enough to your ear to really hear anything more than your neighbor's name. You leave the car where it is, and walk home. It takes hours for the shaking to stop.
[This was Monday evening; it turns out my next-door neighbor had been working in the garden, and it was extremely hot, and she began to feel faint. Unsure what to do, she'd called 9-1-1. In the end, they admitted her to the hospital; her two boys stayed with friends down the street. I don't know if she's home yet--I didn't see her, her husband or her boys yesterday to ask how she's doing--but I'm assuming it's going to be OK. Thank goodness.]