Turn Your Backs to the Water

Eleven years ago I was eleven years into my life, which makes me twenty-two, now, eleven years from that day.

Eleven days into the ninth month of my eleventh year was eleven years to young too know enough anything about terrorism or otherwise. And here, in New York, at twenty-two: I’m reaching into my purse for a pen and coming up with multiple other cylindrical objects: bubbles, mascara, chap-stick, chewing gum wrapped in paper.

The bay is flooded with persons and their objects, their cluttered equipment and whispers, their eyes and their lenses, glued to the skyline. Somber attitudes, eyes up with a subdued awe; it would seem we were waiting for more than just dusk. Tripods triangular, arms akimbo, the figures in the foreground stand silhouetted. They are bloody fleshy skylines on their own, and I too am a high-rise with lights turned off on a tragedy too big for young eyes.

When we look at these photos, we will crop the people out. Crop them out of the frame to focus on the city. Angular and resilient, she is so very much unlike me, stronger and older, full of more death yet vastly more alive. Really, she is all lights from here — ferries at dawn, a gradient sky and beams remembering towers, tumbling skyward, touching God if he’s up there. It is all flattened out and beautified; I snap a shot for Instagram, and it’s both disposable and permanent.

We should go soon, before we get too sad, or give our thoughts time to cross the water. Before they seep into the streets to make acquaintances with ghosts, or worse, the living.

Part of my thinks I am here and alive, eleven times two, with losses of my own, however small. Take me instead, with your digital SLR, with your iPhone, with your hands. Turn your backs to the water, and give New York a second to be still, if not sleep, though we already know she can’t or won’t.  Her bones and dust will never completely settle, as it is.

Either way, the trains keep moving, businessmen keep working, the homeless keep begging. The F trains keep arriving late. Art students continue photoshopping. Babies rest sometimes, cry sometimes.

And the spine of the city carries it all.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. gjarok says:

    I had 22 year old eyes that day. I would say that we had equivalent understanding of terrorism on September 10th, 2001. I wish you could have grown up naive, maybe learned something in a textbook and then forgotten it. But my wishes are deep in the pools at that site covered over by the hopes of millions who were impacted more than I was. We all felt it. We all have thoughts. Thank you for yours.

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