I heard the news on I-69 coming back from seeing my therapist in Okemos. Back then, a tumultuous time for me even without world events, I didn't like listening to the news, so I was playing Mozart variations on the CD player, in particular the one from which we got "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." I tired of the bubbly melody and on impulse switched over to NPR. The first thing I heard was a man's voice say, "And where the World Trade Centers used to be..." and the world, as they say, changed forever.
Everybody's got their story, of course. I remember rushing in to UM-Flint and hugging my not-yet-ex-husband, though we had staked out individual outposts by then; I had installed myself in a small high-ceilinged refuge in an old downtown apartment building. (From my art deco windows I stared out at a huge ceramic elephant at the Happy Elephant Day Care Center across the street. The elephant never looked happy, but more often morose and stranded on his pedestal. The day care center, and the giant sculpture, are now both gone.)
I went to VG's and bought a carton of cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey, and canned peaches. The parking lots were almost empty, as was the sky. We'll all always remember that, I bet, that silent sky.
My husband invited people over that night for the comfort of marinara, one of his trademark dishes. It was a strange night, sitting in a house I'd abandoned after 15 years, with six or seven other dear friends. We drank a lot and watched CNN obsessively -- I'd been living without TV at my apartment and I was grateful to be where I could keep track, even with my ambivalence. I think I took a puff on somebody's pipe and the high was dispirited and made me clammy. When I left, my husband and I, still in deep confusion and mourning about our estrangement, tried to hug each other, but the intensity of the situation was simply too grave and too complicated. I wrenched myself away and fled back to my apartment to no TV, and no man in my bed. It was my great-grandmother's bed. Long before,I'd written a poem about my husband and me together in it; that night the bed connected me with both ancestral history and my immediate emptiness. It was a peculiar, sleepless night. I've often thought that was the one night I could have slept with my husband again, but it wouldn't have been fair -- the two immense sadnesses, the enormous and frightening losses, were too confusing, too inflammatory, like sleeping with nitroglyerin under the bed.
And I was in love with another man, and he was 2500 miles away. I wondered when and how I'd see him again. Every moment seemed suspended, every certainty undone.
The next day there was a spider in my shower. I couldn't bring myself to kill it. I gently scooped it up with a kleenex and carted it outdoors.
The soft or shrill voice within us
7 years ago