I woke up with on September 11th 2001, in bed with my future wife, the sky bright blue, sunshine pouring like liquid honey through our window. It was one of those transparent and golden days that come between seasons, perfectly composed like a floating landscape on Chinese silk.
In that era, we had no internet, no mobile phones, no TV by choice. That world has long been swept away, the one without the constant drum of messages and images and relentless espionage. Occasionally a telephone would ring, but we could ignore that and go back to bed, content to gaze at the sky and into each others eyes. September 11th was just a day then. It had no intrinsic meaning; it was a convenient but arbitrary time measurement on the roman calendar. It meant the end of summer, more or less.
On my way to get hot buttery croissants from a Breton bakery on Duluth street—which were, incidentally, more delicious than any I have yet to find in France—I ran into an old girlfriend. She told me what had happened this morning. Half listening, I remembered her giving me head in the doorway: the convulsions — moments of extacy in-between the walls. Although she hadn’t let me stay the night had another man in another town, we liked each other a lot and in different ways.
‘How are you doing these days’ she asked and I let slip out the ridiculous words ‘Wonderful!’. Wrong answer. She looked at me like I was an extra terrestrial. It was indecent to feel good in such circumstances. I would have to censor the erotic movie that was going on in my own mind. There is a correct and formal way to respond to tradgedy. Outside events had infringed on the perfection of the afternoon and our meeting and the sheer beauty of thing just as they were.
At home I didn’t talk about the events much with my future wife. The subject was not immediate enough for her — she hated talking politics. In our circumscribed world there was only me and only her — what mattered was art and pleasure. World events, however spectacular, were purely abstractions.
We had a jilted kind of conversation about the towers. People die like this in far away countries in greater numbers. So what? Idiotic rational. But this was more than numbers. This was an attack on our symbols. More bla bla bla. She cut me off. She didn’t want to hear about symbols. There was nothing really to say, at this point.
The images started pouring in. The shadow of airplane wings crossed 10, 000 mirrors in slow motion. A human being like a black dot fell into the blue air. Everything broke up into pixels and crazy camera angels. Ones and zeros. Good and evil. Love and hate. Priorities and compartment. What will happen next? Some will freak out, others cry sentimental tears. Punishments will be doled out, there will be speeches, pledging allegiance, men with hands on their hearts and flags flying. New killing machines will be invented, the enemy cockroach will be clearly defined and eliminated.
She rode her blue bicycle down the street in the autumn sunshine, her beautiful derrière high in the air, and every doubt was erased from my mind. There were no symbols here. This was something to believe in.