“Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?”
–William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 1950
Some ran away from it. Others ran into it. Some sat in unfamiliar living rooms because they were too afraid to be alone. They sat on plastic furniture coverings because the host was unaccustomed to guests. Beneath the plastic, the upholstery was pristine. Cheap, but pristine.
There were people in other states and cities that didn’t take the explosions all that seriously, but we didn’t know they were out there. We only found out about those people later. And the bicycle riders who gathered on the other side of the river to have a picnic. Fighting over an ice cream cone.
One of the burnt-up women was forty. One of the burnt-up men left behind a wife and children who like to ride horses. They moved away afterwards. Ohio. Had to.
What do you know about New York, New York? Did you visit? Did you walk the streets hoping someone would discover you and put you on the cover of a magazine? No, because you were shortish and pimpled and thirteen pounds overweight. But you shopped and had pizza and saw a show.
The office memos flew straight up in the blast, then they drifted over the river and landed in tiny back yards, or fluttered around the streets, where the parked cars were covered with ashes. The memos weren’t interesting, even when they were real. Now they didn’t matter anymore. No one to follow up.
If you grabbed one of these memos and tried to read it, you became somnolent and distracted. It was like trying to listen to a dream. Even if you love the dreamer more than yourself, even if you want to marry him twice, even if you want to die with him and travel into the next lifetime as partners, brothers, sisters, friends, anything, as long you stay together, close as teeth. You still can’t care about his dreams. He starts to describe one, tell you what happened, and your attention wanders. You notice something under the stove, dusty and obscure. Is it a pen? A superball? Why didn’t it burn up already? Maybe your son’s plastic army guy? Impossible. He’s grown and gone to college.