“…and then I saw another plane veer and crash into the second building, and I knew then that the person I loved was not going to get out because I counted the floors and when I got to seventy-seven I knew because they were on the ninety-third and I knew there was no way they were getting out of there so I turned and started to run because the buildings were going up like Roman Candles and as I ran my foot turned and I stumbled and looked down and their was a finger with a wedding band and then I turned and looked to the right and there was a row of four airplane seats with four bodies in them on the ground and someone said look and I looked up in the trees and there were people’s innards hanging from the branches and I kept running over feet and hands and…”
It seems both wrong and necessary to hear it; exploitative and crucial all at once.
I’ve never really said it out loud, but that day and the ones that followed were like watching the world catch up with, well, me.
The two years and three months that stretched between my mother’s terminal diagnosis and her death were a surreal vacation in a parallel universe; I saw the world go on around me as it always had, now tantalizingly out of my reach. A plane of glass encircled my family, and within that space we walked in a stunned silence and I wondered what the fuck everyone was always laughing about. Like nobody else in the world understood that death walks hand-in-hand with life. America has no space for the sick or the dying; we shut them up in homes and institutions while all around us Britney Spears rotates her navel on a million screens of pixilated light. There’s no space between J-Lo’s endless marriages for the dying so the dying and those lives touched by the dying don’t exist. It was terminal and cure-less so I waited for that moment in the future while desperately pretending the moment wasn’t everything. We have to live, we can’t just shut down.
So when the country began to mourn, began to discover the things that really mattered; began to leave their dumb jobs for school and volunteering and quality time with the kids I thought yeah, well, I did that a year ago and when everyone became tense and depressed and talked about 2001 being so fucked-up I thought welcome to the club. I felt impatient and somehow, sickeningly, justified.
Once when I was visiting home I went to the Mall of America (or “The Mothership”, as my friend used to call it) and nearly vomited when I saw a “9-11 Store”. Yes, they did. I stood in that foul-smelling shrine of consumerism and hated everything this country stood for, hated the smarmy ubiquitous capitalization of tragedy and death, hated the NYFD t-shirts and flag pins and “we will never forget” stickers. Around me ugly white families clad in matching track suits that barely covered their sloping stomachs and hips ambled with shopping bags and baby strollers, so perfectly at-home and righteous in this horrifying place. I couldn’t leave fast enough.
So AOL says “Light a virtual candle and show the world we’ll never forget” and I just stare blankly at the screen thinking what idiot sat down at a computer and composed that vacant sentiment? Show the world? Like they’d notice.
Your fucking virtual candles aren’t good enough. They only clutter up the universe with more trite, empty symbols; candles that don’t illuminate anything except pretty American Idols.
I can’t live like that. I need something to get me out of bed in the morning. Something contained in the people I love, something that continually defies my expectations. Something mysterious that I can’t examine too closely because it’s the mystery I love and because any examination only reveals false conclusions; expectations that are thwarted or surpassed over and over. An awakening in a hotel conference room. An infatuation turned inside-out. A lover? Ha! No, dear, that’s not what we had in mind. Just bring him to a meeting and like, chill.
Enlightenment, if that’s what this is, kinda sucks. Can’t I just be selfish, just for a little while? Can’t I screw friendship and fuck the boy? Can’t I escape this sweetness, burrow into the bed, cry for my mom?
Yeah, I can. And then I can’t.
So just cry for a little while. Fuck the symbols and the prayers and the closure. You can’t find the ending to this, you can’t shut if off. It follows you home and eats your shoes, a mangy dog looking for love.