I put it off – it’s too much to bear. Scared of where I’ll have to go and where would I even start besides, so I don’t. Later, feel stomach drop and coil as I place pen to pad and force it out. Feel its weight shoving me to cower in a dark corner, wanting to find that black space to weep and grieve. A visceral firestorm I can’t control – I am scarred.
Few understand – that day, THOSE days and there were two I fear I’ll never come back from. The one which took what innocence was left, the other, what hope. I can’t spell them out, no matter how many ways they’re spun. Tragic. Devastating. Help.
Love is what they stole; sweetness and grace.
Like those boys broke her and it broke me.
Like years later, buildings would fall and who knew how much they meant to me – yes, to ME – before it happened? And I walked these streets – these very same streets – and my flash snapped 144 times and I thought, Who these people? On my streets. Clueless. Clueless. Candle burning. Sign carrying. Slogan rhyme spouting. College kids painting each others’ faces. Yuppies carrying flags. Connoting New York with the rest of the country like no one had ever done before. This city, separate, unholy entity, shifting cussing pummeling.
And they all said, “What have THEY done to US? To MY New York?”
Cuz if you were born in Peoria – or anywhere outside the four boroughs, for that matter – and lived here for fifty years, you cannot comprehend what it meant for those of us born and raised in their shadow. To have been at the top at five years-old. To have been homeless in August of 2001 and counted on their presence for restroom and air condition.
Cuz if you witnessed that footage 10,000 times on your television set, you cannot begin to fathom what it was like for those of us watched it happen right before us in (un)real time.
Cuz “They” are us.
Those of us planted with seeds left strewn from Vietnam and the Nixon administration, who remember in detail the first Bush’s reign, knew it was coming sooner or later. And still, we were ill-equipped.
Afterwards, the silence like mounds of wool, occasionally interrupted by the chief minion churning out gibberish.
I fell into literature – all those dead authors, poets I’d previously been intimidated by, thought were too good for the likes of me. Wrote my own Dangling Man, begun prior to 9/11, after my arrest and ahead of my ever having picked up Saul Bellow’s’.
And I saw us: weak, wasted, impotent, broken, down. Unworthy vessels. I thought, It’ll all be over soon. I came to realize I was and always had been a pacifist. And that my life bore the contours of a writer. Except I didn’t care cuz it didn’t matter. So I crawled into their uterine linings, clung to those walls and they did not understand why. Soon, they too would be gone.
And it wasn’t long before SSSUVs with U.S. flags in their every window, I’m Proud To Be An American blasting from Z-100 on their radios were skimming through red lights again, cutting off, honking horns, mowing down families. Our previous religion of insouciance recuperated, reapplied, and further enhanced. Cuz Nietzsche was wrong – what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger, only more anesthetized.
And more blunt.
Months passed, the invisible siege continued. Powder got a few – I waited for mine in the mail. And waited.
New devils were appointed, while old ones stepped down, awaiting a different vibe. They’ll be back.
A plane fell out of the sky onto Howard Beach and A-list celebrities feigned support for “our city” while refusing to step foot anywhere near it, yet still wanting us to patronize their latest product, endorse/provide for their fame, fortune, futures.
Years passed and the date, for me, became Holy. Deeply observed. Respected.
And now, four years later, me, still here, still wanting out, except to a different station. Cuz I no longer dream of another me in another place, sipping sweet sangria, head shaking, saying out loud, “Finally” and “I deserve this” over and over. Today, there is no perspective because it doesn’t matter and aspirations are but formulae for heartache. Today, love has become enemy territory and it’s just as well.
There are nth days of suffering left; I can’t care.
So this year, I’ll deny the day. One out of 365 I won’t be confined, held captive by the memory of four airplanes and three (yes, THREE) tall towering towers. Cuz much like how them boys were in the room, egging me on every time she and I made love during those years following their round assault, there are three ugly buildings walk with me each step I take in this, MY city.
In 2001, the world left behind a century of suffering to enter one of blatant and full desolation, so thick with tumult and despair as to be unfathomable. So unfathomable, we refute its existence daily. Why? Cuz it’s too much to bear and where would we even start? We are not strong enough; we are no pioneers.
So many dead and damaged. And it changed nothing. Nothing. No. Thing.
Mankind moves on, but not really. The world bristles and I can feel it rush past me, paying no mind. I believe I don’t care but know deep down it’s only wishful thinking: here I sit, at 1:06am, on an N train to Forgotten, Queens, devastated, my life shifting, about to change. Here I sit, hunched over, finger down throat, heaving; throwing down line after line, feverishly working my way out of the dark.