Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Leaves

"I've never wished a man dead, but I've read some obituaries with great pleasure." — Mark Twain or Clarence Darrow (or neither)

Nine years, seven months and twenty one days. That's how long I've waited to write this down. I couldn't sleep last night until I did. Like it or not, my entire adult life has been framed by one man's atrocities. I wanted him out of my existence before I spoke on it.


I remember it in flashes.
A suite-mate knocking on my door.
Angry he was out all last night.
Stumbling out of bed.
Discovering him sober.
Discovering him too sober.

The walk to the living room.
A building burning on the screen.

I ate a great hot dog there.
Saw two guys kissing there.
The kids on the tour bus started laughing...
Except one.
Realized something then.
Tried not to use that word.

Jokes about bad driving.
Jokes about Homer and his clam juice.

A shout.
A second bird dashing across the sky.
A quick pan of the camera.
Grey metal bending crimson.

The screams.
The gasps.
The anchor without words.

"Are we at war?"

Drifting in cheese grater silence.
Cuts of nothing.

"We're at war, right?"

Crumpled paper fluttering down.

"Jesus."

Not all paper.

"Jesus."

Princes and princesses watching their kingdom burn.

Cell phones to ears.
Men on television crying.
A woman coughing, blood running from her nose.

Phone network down.
Power down.
Tower down.

Screams.

"My father. My father. My father. My father."

Knowing who's father.

Remembering my mother.
Remembering her flight plans.

Feeling cold.

Blackness.

On the footpath to class.
No backpack.
No coat.
Marketing paper, gotta hand it in.
Wrinkling it.
Feeling stupid.

Afraid to turn around.
Afraid to walk too fast.
Afraid to walk too slow.
Supposta do what I'm supposta.
Supposta do what she does.
Supposta do what she always does...

Did?

No. No. No. No. No.

Wanting to vomit myself up.
Wanting to shut myself off.

Entering Olin.
Everything's fine.
No professor.
Everything's wrong.

Janitor asks what I'm doing.
Classes canceled.
Lights are off.
Silly man.
Obvious.
Doing I'm supposta.

More blackness.

Finding a bench.
Sitting like an old man.
Not being.
Not knowing.
Not hearing.
Not breathing.

Cold.

Birds.
Squirrel.
Leaves.
Quiet savagery.

The ringing in my ears.
The ringing in my pocket.

One of two things.

Hating myself.
Struggling with myself.

A jittery voice on the line.

Headline:

Woman stuck at airport; flight canceled due to homicide.

Listening to the space between words.
Knowing there would be others.
Smiling.
Hurting.

My tree had held onto its leaves;
Others' had burnt to the ground.

+

Memories are fickle creatures, more fickle still when we try and build our lives around them. My friends at Wash. U. probably remember the morning of September 11, 2001 differently. I'm certain that my own recollections have wandered. I can share only what my addled brain can manage. I hope it wasn't too far from the mark.

B.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

that was very powerful.....had no idea you were feeling all of that.....my heart aches knowing the truth after all of these years...

B. Justin Shier said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon. Hearing about his death was surprisingly cathartic. My suffering was a fleck of sand compared to that of so many others, but I'll never forget the terror he put us all through. I'm glad he'll never be able to exert his will on us again.