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Monday morning Teil 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8

Yes, Monday morning.
     Took longer than usual to go as far as 72nd as the local is now running on the express tracks and the express is running on the local tracks. Have assumed, as with everything that has so far occured, that this condition is now permanent.
     Here at work my colleague Dee Dee is back at work today; she came in with her husband, Gavin. It's a typical story, now: he was on the 104th floor of the South Tower. When the first plane hit the other tower three guys in his office got up and immediately went downstairs, catching the elevator to 75 and then taking the express down. By the time the three guys got to the lobby the second building had been hit. Her brother-in-law called her sister twice, the second time to say smoke was filling the floor and he was on his way down. "He fucked up," Dee Dee's brother kept saying. He was working in the World Financial Center, across the West Side Highway from the Trade Towers, was outside when the second plane hit. Says that dozens were jumping, you weren't sure what they were at first. When the first tower collapsed everybody, he said, started to run. Uncontrolled mass panic on the part of everyone, swarming up along the river walk to the highway. (There've been plenty of reports of injuries suffered by people trampled in the two stampedes away from the collapsing buildings). By the time he got to the Village, the second tower collapsed. As you might imagine he's got a combat-level thousand yard stare; I'd forgotten but now remember older brothers etc. looking like that, back in the late 60s and early 70s, after they came back from Vietnam.
     My neighbor, across the hall, a young Latina woman (and her seven-year-old son) is fine, although she worked in a building across the street from the Towers. Again, she was outside when the first one started to come down; her particular crowd streamed eastward as far as they could go, then up. "I guess you'll be seeing me around the apartment the next few weeks."
     Friday night Valeria read what I'd written so far. "You are describing events," she told me. "Not emotion."
     And she's absolutely right. So let me say how I'm feeling this morning, and how I've been feeling.
     The first thing I want to make clear is how gratified I was to know that V was all right, last Tuesday; how overwhelmed with happiness, how comforted. We weren't sure we were going to see each other that day, but once the trains to Brooklyn began, she was able to get back. We have spent as much time as we have together, since.
     I feel deeply blessed, and feel as guilty. When I think of what Ellen and Ellie & all those of our friends who live south of 14th went through (and in the case of Ellie, still going through; her place might not be accessible again for weeks, at the least; she's headed up to New Hampshire.) I know we came out very, very lucky. We came out easy, in fact.
     I'm feeling terrible nostalgia for buildings that I never found attractive, except sometimes at a distance. I think of all the times I went through the mall underneath the towers, on my way to the PATH station to go visit Valeria when she still lived in Jersey City. During the past three years I became very familiar with everything down there. I remember V & I meeting her mother down there, at the head of the escalators that went up from the station. She'd stand and wait in front of Godiva, which was next to an HSBC branch. I remember being down at the Border's WTC back in June (last time I was there, in fact) when Gaiman had his tour kickoff appearance. I remember walking with Katya & Carrie & Robert Legault across the bridge that led between the towers & World Financial Center, en route to Ellie's apartment, for the wake after the memorial service for Jenna, April 6. The orchid show was going on, and the bridge and Palm Court downstairs (also destroyed, pretty much, though the palms are still standing) were full of orchids. On our refrigerator is a little card of a Boston bull terrier Carrie sent us a month or so ago, thanking us for brunch; she'd bought the card in the mall underneath with Ellie.
     Any of us might have been there, and but for the grace of God, or synchronicity, or something, we weren't. Not this time, at least. This isn't a comforting feeling, still.
     Familiar landmarks vanish constantly in NY -- they're getting ready, or have been getting ready, to build a new Columbia building around the corner from me at 110th where D'agostino was -- but never before have so many vanished so quickly, so awfully. I cannot begin to imagine what the place will look like, once it has finally been cleared.
     I haven't looked at a newspaper since Saturday morning except just to glimpse headlines & pages(I did save them, though); I haven't turned on any of the news programming except at the request of others when they've come to visit. The more I saw the worse I was feeling -- jittery, irritable, unable to focus or concentrate, all the anxieties that signify low-level signs of PTSD -- so I stopped watching. This morning I read the Daily News on the way down, and have been keeping up with things on the Internet. I think I'm probably able to handle print again but I'm not sure if that will last. This weekend I ramped up my dosage of Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) from 75 mg back to 225, and depression in some sense -- the chemical, I'd ordinarily say, but in this case who knows? -- has lifted.
     Last night, in a dream, I looked up through the sunroof of an automobile and saw a thin dark tower three times taller than the Trade towers.
     I'm terribly sad. And I'm terribly angry, and nowhere of course to strike out with said anger. And ergo have the same sense that I suspect everyone has, that of being buffeted by events. This of course exacerbates the sorrow, and if turned inward, becomes depression automatically.
     The emotion I'm feeling now that is the strongest and most disturbing because newest is fear. Fear of a very particular sort.
     I was just too young to consciously remember the Cuban missile crisis (although some of my most powerful memories in my life are of the Kennedy assassination, a year later) so have no direct familiarity with genuine, immediate, and justified fear over ongoing current events. For years of course we all grew up with the possibility, however remote at times it seemed, of their being nuclear war, but that was always something at the back of the head (although I think that fear, suspicion, call it what you will, influenced the middle of the last century far more than has been understood or admitted).
     This, however, is a different situation. The fear of a nuclear, chemical or biological event that *may very well, and probably will, happen,* somewhere, if not New York. Fear that genuine, and in our new context justified, will influence this century as greatly.
     This doesn't have entirely bad effects. It may sound like a cliche, or at least reminiscent of what our parents or grandparents have told us, but I really haven't felt so alive in my life.
     But this past weekend --- on Friday night, V & I stayed in, and friends from across the street came over. We fixed pasta and then watched Tarkovsky's SOLARIS, at least as far as the journey along the freeway to which you'd alerted me. Saturday we went to Grand Central (which seems now like one of those temporary buildings erected for the Columbian or Pan-Pacific Expositions, looking solid though made of chicken wire and spackle) and caught the train up to Wave Hill, a former estate on the Hudson in Riverdale, in the Bronx. It is open, it is distant, it is beautiful, and we had several peaceful hours there.
     On the way back we walked from Grand Central down 42nd as far as 72nd & Broadway. The main thing noticed in Times Square is that presently it's no more crowded there than it would have been years ago; the tourists have, at this point, mostly either left town or are at the airports waiting to get out of town. No wonder there's less traffic, fewer people on the streets even today, when things are about as much back in shape as they're going to be any time soon.
     Rather than having one tremendous drop-off place for flowers etc.(I gather Union Square's is pretty good sized), there sprang up all throughout town, at various places -- on 42nd between 6th & 7th, at the Maine Memorial on Columbus Circle, in Riverside Park -- places where pictures of the dead were put up, candles were left, single flowers; the shrines are spontaneous, and of human size. (On Riverside drive, Sunday morning, three candles were left burning just outside a delivery entrance at one of the apartment buildings.)
     Sunday we had friends over for brunch -- Ellen, Carrie, Robert -- and then went for a walk through Riverside, the drive & the park. Ran into Peter Straub & his wife and we talked for awhile. At Fairway, a fine supermarket at 74th, we all went our separate way for today.
     It's getting harder for me to talk about what has happened, when friends call (Judith Clute called last night). There just isn't anything more to say about what happened; only what will happen.
     I noticed that among the movies not shown this weekend as they were scheduled to be shown (INDEPENDENCE DAY, on NBC, and I wonder if that will ever be shown again; AIRPORT, on TCM) was GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, on AMC. A response equivalent to suspending 6-year olds for bringing fingernail clippers to school, I think, but perhaps not.
     The most fascinating thing about all this is that today, for the first time, I can feel, I know, that the event has become contextualized; that we now expect smoke in the air, train delays, the papers full of rising body counts (though still @5,000); that the fear in the front of our heads has settled into the middle; that the bar has been so lifted for imagination as to be scarcely understandable, still. That these are aspects of reality that are, now, real and therefore not as shocking in some very real way as they initially were. But, as you were saying when you told me about the person you knew who'd just come back from the Buddhist retreat, the event taken as history is extremely different from the event experienced as reality.
     In the eulogy I wrote for Jenna, back in March, after she died so suddenly, I noted the following: Borges spoke of how his father once remarked that he realized it was impossible to remember his childhood. He had, he said, come to understand that what he had always believed to be his memories of events, or scenes, or people, were in fact memories only of the last time he had had the memory. That each time the shade of the memory came to mind, its underlying actuality receded ever further into the irretrievable past. Today we might use the metaphor of a videotape, duped infinite times, over endless generations, until only the blurriest outline remained of a crystalline vision.
     But the kind of memories seared into the head last week, I think, are of the kind that remain painfully sharp, and clear. I remember my second grade teacher clapping her hand to her face when the principal came on over the loudspeaker and said the President had been "ambushed in Texas," and the immediate thing that came to my mind involved cowboys, sagebrush, and horses. I remember my mother & grandparents wandering through the house, the TV on constantly in the background, obviously as dumbfounded as we all are now. I remember in fact watching TV almost constantly, the black and white blurs, the constant reiteration. I remember how it poured rain, all day, throughout the east on Saturday, the day after the assassination. I remember hearing my mom saying "what happened?" when Ruby shot Oswald. I remember the drumming, all day long, on Monday; and I remember them playing Taps in the background at the very end, around suppertime on Monday. I remember my mom saying to my grandmother, "turn it off. Just turn it off." The TV, meaning.
     In this instance too I suppose memory will offer no relief, as parts of it will never fade.

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