when pictures fail me…
Since 9/11 I have navigated both the Interstate and back roads on the map of human feelings. The stages of grief appeared, often out of order, jumping out at me at unexpected moments, like goblins in a carnival funhouse. If I anticipated a particular one, it would perversely be a no-show. Other times they would jockey and vie for my emotional center when I least expected any of them to make an appearance. Eventually, I allowed them all to have a voice, got to know them with a grudging acceptance. Healing happened.
I knew several people who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, all firefighters. One, I wrote a book about, based on stories collected and my journals. He was my former fiancé, but not at the time of the attack. Still, we were close, in touch, the dance card of our intimacy not completely tossed away. I am not a 9/11 widow, nor a wannabe. I am not easily slotted into any category except the one that matters: I lost somebody I love. The category all of us will fall into during our lifetimes.
A friend called Sunday night at 11 p.m. and I was already in bed, fading. She knows I don’t have cable TV, and wanted to share the breaking news. I thought she said “Obama has been killed.” My blood froze until I un-jumbled and reshuffled the consonants. My first feeling for what actually happened was a resonating, sincere, non-jubilant “Good.” Good.
As I learned the details, more feelings surfaced: a pride in the finesse of the mission’s plan and its success. More respect for President Obama and the Navy SEALs. Empathy for all the other families and friends of people lost. In those early moments, I was not forecasting future repercussions, global political or religious scenarios, violence begetting violence, or how the Tea Party will try to spin this. Nor was I sealing the lid of a cauldron of simmering vengeance that I had never nursed over fires of rage. I simply (complexly?) felt a calm sense of justice served. A fate deserved. I didn’t want to rah-rah, wave a flag, or have a celebration.
This morning my utility lines were being serviced and I had no power for over an hour. No replaying the videos, no comparing the Daily News tabloids with the New York Times coverage, no talking heads commentary.
What to do? I decided to resume the weekend activity of cleaning out clothing drawers. One I never open anymore. It hides intimate lacy things I wore over ten years ago. I pulled each relic out and remembered who I used to be, sometimes, for fun. Way in the back was something soft, cotton. An old white T-shirt of Pat’s. He had hacked around the collar with scissors, with an incised V cut down the front, to wear for warmth under button-down shirts. I had forgotten I had saved it. I lay on my bed and simply draped the T-shirt over my face and breathed deep.
And I felt…something.
from Back To My Senses, 2013