Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time

A Luka Bloom song is the title for this post, and it pertains to the package from my Queen of Scotland and her royal family, whose arrival beats back the bleakness of this day and the hazy memories it brings back.
Have you any idea, my dearest friend, that the gifts you give are far bigger than you could ever imagine? As Anthony and I were going over our books of 'Don'ts' for Husbands and Wives he looked at me, paused and said, "If we ever go to Scotland, these are the people we would need to see". Indeed. I truly love you.

On this day I am looking back over my time in NYC ( I moved here from there! ) reverently, remembering the opportunities I had to swing dance madly at Windows on the World and my many trips through the concourse under the towers, spraying Crabtree & Evelyn's Sandalwood cologne on my wrist for the journey back on the Path Train to New Jersey where I was staying that August... I was too poor to buy it, but I wore it every day.
On September 9th on my way into Manhattan in the evening I came above ground on the last Jersey stop and looked at the south tip of the island and watched the colorful sky reflecting in the mirror of the Towers and thought, "How lucky am I to live here?." It was a massive struggle: I temped and auditioned for plays and made tremendous memories of early hungry twenties with my friends in diners over breakfast specials because we couldn't afford the dinner plates -- but I DID IT. Life in New York for me was a circus of victories and defeats.
My mother called at 8:45 that morning, a time when I should have been on the Path train to transfer at WTC to the 1/9 to the Upper West Side: I had found out that I won a role in Florida the night before and I was to move my things in to our new Midtown (!) apartment on the morning of the 11th so I called my friend Emily with whom I was working briefly to say, "Can I be late tomorrow?" Nothing seemed as luxurious as the idea of sleeping in a little and moving to Times Square!
I turned on the TV at my mother's words. My stomach fell into my feet.
My boyfriend and I watched it all. We drive into Manhattan that evening with our rental car full of our things past guard posts and people wearing gas masks and the heavy smell of chemical burn, the air around the south tip still a veil of smoke.
We unpacked. We all looked at each other in the streets those next few weeks, with the candles and pictures resting undisturbed in doorways and shop entrances. There was a reverence to the city I had never known: a gentleness, a grieving.
Everyone lost someone: people gathered around listening to stories of miraculous survivors and people who just happened to sleep in or miss their train... Grand Central with its walls of the missing, a sudden hush under everything noisy....
There is no more sting for me about it all, just a heap of memories that will become antiquated stories when I am old - that I 'should' have been there is what haunts my mother - that I saw New York brought to its knees for months to come is what haunts me still and makes me miss it with all my heart.
In my mind today I will live in Astoria as I did for my last year there.
I will walk past my aging neighbors on their milk crate chairs and nod and smile. I will buy fruits and veggies on that market down 31st and then I will cook something delicious in my kitchen with the window open to hear the pigeons cooing and flapping their wings. Come evening I'll sit out on my stoop and read since these are the last days of warm evenings.
That is the place that makes my heart ache with love -- even if it's only one day out of the year that I must remember.

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