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A man was murdered yesterday in the building next to mine. I’d been writing all morning, deeply immersed in a fictional murder mystery, when I decided to get some air and light, take a walk in the park. As soon as I exited the building, I knew something was wrong: my neighbors were gathered in a close circle on the sidewalk, talking, gesticulating, speculating, and weaving stories. No one had any facts other than, “A man has been killed.” In one telling, there’d been an intruder—hard economic times, burglaries on the rise. In another, the death was accidental, a lover’s quarrel. One person said the man was 50, another said he was 60. A swat team had arrived, a crime scene unit van, officers, detectives and, soon after, the media.

Of course, I participated in all of this. It was a drama. There was even a sense of camaraderie and fun. New Yorkers, usually so much in a hurry, had stopped to talk, to tell stories about other murders, deaths and investigations they had experienced near or far. Stories abounded. Stories fell out of us, most of them more fictional than journalistic which is why journalism is such a discipline and ethical challenge. It doesn’t take much to skew a story one way or another, to confabulate or to conflate.

Recent brain research confirms that speech and storytelling are contiguous, intertwined; one does not exist without the other. (See, Norman Doidge, “The Brain That Changes Itself,” a fascinating and well-written account of the “new” neuroscience.)

But to return to my story about the murder, or the particular murder on my street. I left my neighbors and went back up to my apartment to double-check the lock on my fire escape window. Then I went to the park and then to the Guggenheim Museum. By the time I returned home, the news reporters had filed their stories. The man who was killed was in his fifties. His room-mate had stabbed him to death and been arrested. Despite this "resolution," the crime scene unit van was still parked in front of the building. It was hours later. Were they still gathering evidence? My imagination clicked over. Why was it still there? I asked some neighbors. Every one had a different story.
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