September 12, 2006

Nine Twelve

In remembrance of the fifth anniversary of the day after … 9/12,

9/12/2001 started out like any other day following a national tragedy, so long ago, five years ago today. I woke up. Hit snooze on the alarm, NPR was abuzz still with incoming information regarding the tragedy the day before. But 9/12 was, otherwise, fairly ordinary. But aren't all days fairly ordinary until disaster strikes? You never hear, "That day was unlike any other ... and then Little Johnny was crushed by the pick-up truck. But what will always stand out was the unique day before that happened."

I wiped the typical sleep from my usual eyes and slowly shuffled my nonchalant way into my same-as-it-ever-was kitchen. There was nothing to eat for breakfast. I panic binged everything in my cabinets and refrigerator the day before: Little Debbies, cereal, a pint of coffee ice cream, two dozen scrambled eggs, frozen waffles, tomato juice, all of it gone, never to return for the day after … 9/12.

I think about today, five years ago, and the nostalgia washes me like a blood red river begging for a sanguineous baptismal. Hallelujah! I fall backwards into the river - Its deeper than it looks. I plummet for 10 seconds at 150 miles per hour into memory before waking up again, startled and sweating.

NPR was on. It's still 9/12 and I was dreaming of five years ago. No one reports on 9/12. The bobble heads nodding up and down, solemn soothsayers, and our prophets on the steel and glass mountains who failed to see the glint of those planes in the morning sunshine; those reflected rays from the jetliners now replaced by towers of manmade light shining upward from the blackened Earth illuminating the nighttime clouds in a beautiful, elegant testament to the horrors of that day before 9/12 five years ago.

On 9/12/2001 the world remained changed for the worse. Did we lose our naiveté or our innocence the five years and one day earlier? The two words mean the same thing but have vastly dissimilar connotations. I stood in my empty kitchen, chilly from the approaching fall morning of 2001 and looked into those barren cupboards. The wall rips open and the nose of a airplane slams through my kitchen.

The cabinets explode. Steel shatters like glass and glass slices into me like sharpened steel and the liquid fire, molten lava, burns me, burns my kitchen, every square inch becomes the inferno. Is this what Hell is like; the fire, the pain, the fear, the screaming and choking into my cellphone as an angel's voice assures me help is on the way and to remain calm. I must call my mother and tell her goodbye...

There’s those lights again.

Those beautiful, elegant columns of light, beacons in the firestorm guiding those innocent souls upward and beyond on 9/12/2001, five years ago today. I step into the column and I feel heavy as a feather. I’m lifted in an updraft and I’m floating. The world transforms from bleak gray, red and black into a thousand shades of blue and finally pristine white, the color of egg shell and yogurt and cream cheese and fluffly merangue…

I closed my refrigerator and my kitchen was dark once more five years ago on 9/12/2001. Still nothing to eat: no peanuts, no pretzels, no box cutters. Simplicity was key to my diet five years ago. I followed the food pyramid and knew what major food groups to include and which to eliminate. Everything seemed simpler before 9/12, the first day after. Memories where the music is played through a creaky Victrola and occasionally a scratch or damaged frame mars the audience’s view of the action movie. Happy Americans contently munch their popped corn and gasp when the turban wearing man sneaks up behind Gayest Neil in his very kitchen!

The brown skinned man holds a long, curved dagger and wears a long, curled moustache. The screen goes black, white text appears:

“In the name of Allah I will kill this chubby American in his very kitchen!”

And again the audience gasps in fear, but they know it’s not real. They’re safe in the movie theatre, one hand greasy with butter the other numb from their ice cold, Diet Coca-Colas with sliced lemon.

Unwittingly, Gayest Neil opens his cupboard and it smacks the terrorist in the head. He’s knocked unconscious and our hero sees him lying sprawled on the floor.

More words appear on the screen: “What is this? I didn’t order delivery falafel and shawarma!”

Neil sheepishly shrugs. And the audience goes hysterical.

Their unwitting hero, their dumb captain, their lucky soldier has won the day again simply by his own innocent words and naive gumption. The man in the turban is carted away by men in black suits and red stained cuffs.

Balloons and confetti and a "Mission Accomplished!" banner fall from the ceiling. Neil is now wearing an Air Force flight suit and eating a hearty American breakfast of steak and eggs, pancakes and a big tall glass of ice cold milk; white milk.

And the audience cheers!

And four more turbans pop up outside the window and with devious, dark eyes stare inside at our hapless hero.

And the audience gasps.

And Neil closes the window and unknowingly catches the terrorists' matching beards.

And the audience guffaws!

And the movie theatre explodes as a jetliner crashes in through the wall and that liquid fire drenches the seated viewers. And they keep laughing and laughing and laughing. Their blackened bones crackle and cackle and they stuff their charcoal briquette bellies with popcorn and bubbly soda pop.

And the audience watching the audience...

Five years ago I flipped through channels all day long, channel surfing on what proved to be a placid pool of water. My remote rests on the Food Network: barbecue ideas for celebrating the fifth anniversary of 9/12! Wonderful. Distraction over reflection, grotesquery instead of refinement. American pride brand-labeled and sold to a morbid popcorn hungry audience wearing cardboard 3-D glasses in the colors red, white and blue.

Did America make it into that column of light five years ago on 9/12/2001 or are we still living in that scorched pit?


Crocus said...

last night, while watching monday night football, i saw an advertisement for a television, this television, claimed the ad was made better by the power of mirrors. To prove the point of the power of mirrors, i suppose the little girl with the elephant standing in Arrowhead Stadium, hands a man a little mirrored box. Upon opening the box a shaft of light emerged that exited the stadium skyward continuing beyond sight. Was this an homage?

I remember september 12 2001, was about leaving the city, to get to my home upstate. now my home is in manhattan, and when i think back to september 2001 i have a strong memory of september 16, my birthday party, when many friends from the city came upstate and completely out of view of the flaming pit that was the cities center of attention were able to breathe.

Gayest Neil said...

Awww. Thats such a nice comment. Thanks for sharing that! I'm kind of preoccupied with disaster myself. Nice to hear that. It reminds me of an essay I wrote for Southern Voice the week of 9/11. It's about gays dancing and being together in Atlanta. Sounds frivilous but it struck a chord w/ the editor at the time. I can't find it though.

FiL said...

I'm... wordless. Quite simply the most beautiful piece I have seen coming out of "the anniversary."

September 12 is my wife's birthday. We did not celebrate it in 2001. Every year since then we've shifted it's marking hither and yon on the calendar. Ostensibly for logistical and practical reasons, but perhaps we're running from something.