Lying in bed, you're listening to the radio. You aren't sure whether you turned it on or wished it on. There was a hole -- an endless scary void of no-news -- while you slept. It was a long black period when Saddam Hussein could have come on TV like the joker in "Batman," laughing about taking over the world. Anything.

You did sleep, though, falling off when you couldn't look at Bernard Shaw's cutout photo on CNN anymore. And you couldn't look at the map of the Middle East anymore -- Iraq was becoming a face blowing its nose into Jordan. And the talking, talking, talking. Everything had the jumpy jaggedness of middle-of-the-night call-in radio.

"Saddam Hussein has gone to war," Bernard Shaw kept saying, "and this morning his people are going to work."

Going to work. Here, a man walks down the street with a radio stuck to his ear. A lawyer lugs a television in, and now her boss won't leave her office. You see that a rollaway bed has appeared near your desk, in case someone has to stay all night.

It's very quiet, as if everybody came to work but is somehow still back at home, watching. The televised war talk sounds like sports talk. First game of the season won. Smiling players, solemn coaches and an anxious team owner in the White House. One woman remarks that NBC's Arthur Kent, in Saudi Arabia, is "a hunk heartthrob." Another calls to say that John Holliman on CNN seemed so honest and scared when the bombs went off, "and then you could tell he'd just pretend it wasn't happening, so he wouldn't freak out... .

"Can you imagine how you'd feel being in Baghdad watching our planes strike the city?"

Mixed feelings. At midnight, women in a District apartment building descend upon the laundry room. All women, no men, not enough washers. "Even women I know who don't cook," says Katy Kelly, a reporter for People magazine, "have been making huge pot roasts, huge stews. There's been a cleaning frenzy, a nesting thing."

A guy stands in line for cash at the bank machine. A flash of panic strikes him as he's pressing the buttons. "How much money have I got?" he thinks. "Maybe I should take it all out." A veteran sportswriter says he's nervous about covering the Super Bowl. He thinks the stadium might be blown up. A woman admits she "just bought out Victoria's Secret." Another watched the televised air raid at 7 on Wednesday night and decided finally to buy a Persian rug for the dining room. She got back in time for the president's speech at 9. Vacation plans are canceled. Or put on hold. Fear of flying. Fear of frivolity.

"Commercial aviation crashes always get big headline news," says Samuel Karson, former chief psychologist with the Federal Aviation Administration. (Where did all those experts -- the psychologists, the strategists, the retired generals -- come from?) "So terrorists are attracted to that sort of attack. ... But people are more likely to have an accident in their own homes -- in the bathtub or on the steps. Being in a plane is one of the safest places you can be in your life."

You slip walking in Lafayette Square. A light rain has fallen on the bricks, which are covered with wax, melted there from all the peace candles of the past few days. Three people are wondering why Barbara Bush broke her leg so flukishly last weekend. Somebody says she broke it for George. She broke hers because he couldn't break his. Somebody else suggests it is a metaphor for the United States of America. The slope was too steep. She was going too fast. The president yelled, "Bail out! Bail out!" But it was too late.

At night, pale orange lights glow in the second-floor windows of the White House. There's a room with a shade drawn. Decisions are being made for us. Some people are angry at George Bush. Some feel sorry for him. "Some people feel very comfortable trusting a leader," says Helen Wintrob, a clinical psychologist in Brooklyn. "And others have enormous trouble with that kind of trust. But it's even more important for those people to feel a sense of trust in him. Believing that he won't betray you. Otherwise, it's like a child feeling that a parent isn't acting in their interest."

Mothers and fathers are calling their children. Siblings are calling each other. Friends are calling friends. There's a funny need to talk. And everybody's talking so fast. "Your feelings change so rapidly," says Robert Rosenblatt, a local clinical psychologist. "You feel one way, then another. There's ambivalence, and the anxiety that goes with it."

You might have felt exhilarated when you heard the air strike was a success. Quick, precise, surgical. Then you might have felt lousy for feeling good. Can't I feel a few minutes of satisfaction that for years one-third of my salary has gone to pay for these airplanes, which are actually working? Some people say they felt relief after the first strike. "Psychologically, the {Jan. 15} deadline was very confusing," says Florence Volkman Pincus, a clinical psychologist in New York City. "Now we think we know what's happening. But it's a seduction. We actually know even less." Gen. Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Richard Cheney come on television. They are calm, cautious, strong. But do they know what they're doing?

"I think you need to differentiate fear from anxiety," says Karson. "You are afraid of a specific thing or object. But anxiety has to do with the unknown. There are only five kinds of anxiety."

1. Guilt and worry.

2. Tension or free-floating anxiety. "This can cause sleep disturbance," says Karson. "It's a Don Knotts kind of thing. A tightness. Nervousness."

3. Paranoid insecurity. "You are very irritable. Angry."

4. A binding of anxiety. "Trying to control it. That's doing the laundry. That's cleaning your apartment. It has to do with discipline."

But what's No. 5?

A White House staffer calls to say that the mess has been really crowded the last few days. "Everybody's there. People aren't straying too far." Two hours before "the liberation of Kuwait" began, there was "an odd stillness here." It's weird passing Chief of Staff John Sununu in the hallway or national security adviser Brent Scrowcroft, the staffer says. "You know they know something. They know when it's going to happen. But you don't envy those guys."

There's a silence in cabs, except for the radio. There's a sense of bereavement, of disbelief and horror and sadness and camaraderie. Drivers sometimes say nothing. Drivers sometimes fill you in. They pass along their opinions. "Maybe it will all be over quickly," says one. "President Bush says it will. Maybe he knows."

"People have been talking about wanting to stay home," says Wintrob. "They want friends to come over. They want to be in a secure place. And people are looking at the sky a lot."

There's a heightened sense of aliveness. You are worrying, then worrying that you aren't worried enough. At the supermarket, you find yourself thinking that you'll remember this moment -- buying some lettuce -- forever.