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"Dust" - t.s. ozula sioux

It is not mean-spiritedness that will make you turn away.  It is not your intention to be shallow or uncaring; to be without compassion – you are not indifferent to their suffering.  Pain is pain.  But not all sorrow is endured to the same degree and certain agonies are not meant to be shared in the lexicon of grief.  So when your local north country NPR affiliate starts broadcasting commemorations and remembrances in the days leading up to the anniversary, you will begin to shut down.  The meaning of that day for those who at eight forty-six were three hundred and thirty-eight-point-four miles away in Clayton; who at nine fifty-nine were two hundred and ninety-six-point-two miles away in Tupper Lake, will be too much for you to comprehend.  Like you, they will know exactly where they were and what they were doing.  And it will hurt.  But you just won’t care.  You will know with certainty there is no possible way to hold or consider the memories of those who were not there – on the planes, in the towers, on the ground.  Those whose lives were not permanently, irreversibly altered by loss.  Those who cannot move on.

            You will close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath then switch your radio dial over to The Drive, allowing yourself to be washed away by Cage the Elephant, Mother Mother, and AWOLNATION.  You will thank God aloud for this respite, for this moment of grace, and ask the DJ to please, please, please play The Naked and Famous.  The bittersweet between my teeth.  Trying to find the in-between.  Fall back in love eventually.  Yeah yeah yeah yeah… Can you whisper?  As if by some divine force intervening on your soul’s behalf, a single song could save your life.  Your thinking will be magical. 

            Much will be said about that day and you will have nothing poetic or transformative or turbulent or beautiful to offer.  Nothing at all.  So you do not talk about what you saw or heard that Tuesday morning.  What you tasted and can still sometimes smell.  How the woman you did not know still presses herself against you.  How they all still press against you; saturating, from head to toe, every pore of your body.

You’re walking down a crowded street, unsure exactly, how you got there or where you are.  The only thing you carry is your mobile phone which you somehow remembered to grab on your way out.  You start dialing, positive this is the last call you will ever make—right here, right now—as your body keeps moving itself toward what you do not yet know.  You are surprised by how calm you are; how extraordinarily empty and still, as t he one you are trying to reach—the one whose voice you need to hear just one last time—does not answer.  The call drops after two rings.  You want to reassure them; tell them to Be brave; tell them you loved your life all the more for their place in it.  You try again.  Another drop.  You  try again.  Another drop.  You try again.  And again.  And again.  You get their voice mail. 

            Goodbye.  I love you, is all you have time to say.  All, really, any of you have time to say.

            You think of your mother and father—one taken by grief at their own hands, the other by rage at the hands of another; how, at thirty-two, you’ve outlived them both.  But not today.  Today, you will join them.

            You pass a small bodega and watch as the owner, a handsome South Asian man in his early-fifties, makes change for a long line of patrons - hispatrons whom he has known and cared for all these years.  They leave his shop searching for the nearest pay phone; awestruck, searching for a way to call and get home.  All of your cell phones have died.  A young girl buys litter and cat food.

No one speaks.

            You walk into a storefront.  Inside, everyone is gathered around the  television—parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, children of various ages…passersby—watching special live coverage of what is happening just beyond the door.  You stare at the television, look out the front door then back again.  You are reminded of the riots in Los Angeles in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict: how you watched live television news coverage of television news coverage in Japan of what was happening outside your door in your own neighborhood in Long Beach, California.  No one speaks.  You turn away from the television and keep walking.

            It is then that you see her, covered in debris.  She looks up and her eyes well as they meet and then lock with yours.  A part of you goes limp: you swear you can feel your heart dissolve and break; it is unbeautiful.  Her understated skirt and elegant heels are ill-equipped for this new terrain; the added weight of plaster, ash, and shock makes her clumsy.  Still, she barrels toward you, gripping your hand and pulling you into her, hard.  No one speaks.  You hold her tight and she begins to sob—visceral, small; with wounded-animal fear.  She burrows herself into you, hoping against truth and logic and despair you can make this go away.  You, helpless, cannot.  You transfer back and forth to one another the remains of those you’ve been carrying for how long how neither one of you seems to know; the countless, nameless remains of those already gone who coat you in their dust.  You hold each other there in your hallowed embrace.  Before the crumble.  Before you and they wither and fall, never to return. 

The week of the anniversary Howard Lutnick, CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, will be quoted as saying, “We move forward, but it stays with us.”  And you will wonder, Will I move forward?  Will I every fully exhale?

No.  No, you will not