Every year September 11 takes me by surprise. I forget that the day after September 10 isn’t just a day when an article is due, when my this-or-that class is scheduled, when I’m supposed to meet up with so-and-so for coffee. I don’t remember the import of the day until it arrives, when comments start flooding the social media you can’t escape anymore. That’s when I realize what my body has already been registering for days–in the generalized depression I’ve been feeling, in the uncharacteristic anxiety that has been seizing my limbs and messing with my attention span, in my suddenly sour stomach (gut instincts being almost mundanely literal). What I recognize is I can’t run away from the losses of that day. For me, the events of 9/11 will always be profoundly personal—someone I loved died, a future I’d envisioned for my city and myself (one that included a marriage and a child) died as well. But it’s a date that everyone in the world quickly seized as their own. Now it’s the worst kind of personal-is-political—a day upon which everyone projects (institutionalizes, even enforces) their particular brand of fear and fury. If only we could make it National Shut Up and Think Day instead.
It’s the last day of summer, unofficially at least, and only now have I tackled enough of the shadows looming over me to relax. That’s life, I suppose, and as much as I don’t mind work—as much as I love work, even—I’m aware a change of pace would do me well. My patience is worn to the bone; I can scarcely suffer anyone, let alone fools; and I’ve become a Grim Jim, a Prince Charmless, a true Pill-ar of the community. Still, it’s nothing a break wouldn’t cure, and when I pay off all my debts and refill my bank account, I plan to take one—a good one, a long one, a very, very quiet and briny one.
In the meantime I travel within my finely feathered city, orchestrating the sort of adventures that have been the mainstay of my existence here since I was but a lass. Yesterday I wandered through the flea market on 76th and Columbus, a neighborhood that typically gives me nose bleeds. There, among the throng of normcore nudniks and old ladies in purple hats, I excavated an art deco pocket watch, a spangled parrot brooch, and a tiny painting of sea and sky whose beauty was obfuscated by a homely brown frame. This morning I painted it white and cream while watching an old screwball comedy. (And after you shot your husband, how did you feel? I felt hungry!) Grace supervised, her tail twitching in my face. The neighborhood pigeon with a neon stripe yapped outside the window. And the wind blew in, setting aflutter the curtains I hung myself.
Small pleasures, all of them, but no less real for their scale and certainly no less mine. And thus this season comes to a bittersweet end. Here’s to a brilliant Fall for us all.