I realized I’m missing something: I have no ritual, no way of marking the occasion when I finish writing a novel. Since early 2018, I’ve completed six of them, and I’m a few pages away from I realized I’m missing something: I have no ritual, no way of marking the occasion when I finish writing a novel. Since early 2018, I’ve completed six of them, and I’m a few pages away from my seventh—which I will likely finish at work because it is so slow there—and the only thing I do when I’m finished writing one is flip the page and get started on the next one. I don’t go out partying with friends because I don’t have any friends to party with, I don’t treat myself to a nice dinner because I do that whenever I want (or never now that I’m broke), and I don’t pop open a bottle of champagne for obvious reasons. I don’t even give the book a once-over and prepare it for publication because a) I wait months before I reread something I’ve written, and b) it’s not getting published. (I love to write. I write not to be read, but for the act of writing itself.) I kind of wish I had something to do, though. I feel like writing an entire novel is something to be celebrated.
I hate this day. I hate it so much. In August, I usually start dreading it and wondering how I’m going to feel this year. It’s been eighteen years. 9/11 is old enough to vote. It doesn’t haunt me most of the time, it doesn’t drive me to drink. I hardly think of it anymore. But I’ll never forget. And still that date rolls around.
It’s just a normal day anymore, with the exception of Twitter and Facebook remembrances (like this one), but I want the world to stop. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want anybody to go to work. I don’t want people to have Meet-ups or dates or parties. I don’t even know what I want people to do instead, I just don’t want them pretending that nothing happened today.
Maybe it’s because I was there. I took the train to the World Trade Center stop only a half-hour earlier. I heard the plane crash into Tower 2 and carried on stuffing envelopes like nothing happened. I evacuated my building and looked up at the double-landmark I knew and trusted as my compass in New York City on fire. I was almost hit by a smoldering cell phone case that someone was likely wearing on their belt when they died. I thought the world was coming to an end.
But it didn’t. And here we are. We got revenge on the people who caused it (as well as a whole lot of people who had nothing to do with it). Presidencies were won and lost. The Right went back to hating New York for being a bastion of moral depravity. The city rebuilt. And September 11 is just a normal day anymore.
This anniversary makes me feel so lonely. It doesn’t seem like anyone else feels as intensely as I do about today, not after almost twenty years. And how would anyone know how I felt? I’m pretty good at hiding it. Most of the people I’ve met over the past ten years have no idea what I went through that day. I don’t have anybody to talk to about it, and even if I did, I don’t know what I’d say. I can’t even write a coherent blog post after counting down to today working on it.
It’s been a long time. Never Forget.
I don’t want to be the guy who dwells on bad news and trauma, but this is something I’ll never forget. Part of it is because I literally watched it happen, and eighteen years isn’t enough to erase those images and those smells from my memory. I don’t think of it often as time has gone on, but on this date, I always do, and I feel really lonely anymore.
Nobody checks to see how I’m doing whenever this day comes around, a day I start feeling the dread for around late August. (Although, to be fair, hardly anybody I’ve met over the past ten years knows about my experiences with it.) (Also, I’m willing to bet that the people who are aware of it don’t know what to say or assume that I don’t want to talk about it.) I’d be happy to talk about it, but that’s not the kind of thing you can just bring up, especially given how complicated the emotions are attached to it.
And suddenly it arrives, and it’s nothing. There’s not a lot about it on social media anymore, and on the news, it’s mentioned pretty casually, before moving onto the next dumb-ass tweet from our president. But this was the defining event of twenty-first-century America. This mess we’re in right now directly ties back to what was planned in that cave almost twenty years ago. (September 11 led to the Iraq War, which was responsible for the election of Barack Obama, which was responsible for the election of Donald Trump and everything that has come with him. That’s just simplifying it.) Three thousand people died that day. Three hundred police and firefighter ran into the buildings I was running from, and they paid the price for their bravery. How do you forget that?
I’m sorry. I just hate this day with a passion, and it’s just weird to me that it’s no big deal anymore.