I saw Greg Louganis dive in St. Louis
in 1984. Oh, the way he folded and
unfolded in the air. We all gasped
when he split the surface and disappeared.
But he rose up in a shimmering swath
of bubbles, unbounded joy.
Seventeen years later, a man steps out
through the lattice of a skyscraper and
folds himself into a breathtaking pike.
An anonymous diver, abandoning his
day job. Maybe you’ve seen the
photograph? A single body falling, white
oxford full and fluttering, like a peony,
blowsy, on that singular day.
Today I am in my late twenties again.
Today I am waking up early in my town in the American southwest to the sound of people shouting on my apartment complex balcony. It is a day I can sleep in. I am working the late shift. I am not pleased to wake up to people shouting this early in the morning. I go out on the balcony and glare at them. They don’t seem to notice. Or care. Even though I’m in my pajamas and my hair is quite fearsome.
Today I am realizing there’s no point in going back to sleep and I might as well run some errands since I have the morning free.
Today I get ready without turning on the television or the radio.
Today I run errands while listening to a tape I have in the car. It’s a Hole kind of day. Courtney Love screams me around town.
Today I still don’t turn on the radio.
Today I get to my old job to help out a little since I’m up early. It is a thing I do, sometimes.
Today I walk in the door and there are people in a tangled knot around the small television in the lobby. The sound is low. No one’s at the front desk.
Today I ask one of my old coworkers what was going on.
Today she turns to me and says, “Two planes flew into the World Trade Center” and her eyes are holes in her face.
Today I ask her, “An accident? There was an accident?”
Today she says, “No. No, Amy, I don’t think so. I think it was on purpose.”
Today I stand in a crowd of people, strangers and friends alike, and we are all as one. Today we watch the television in the lobby and it grows to the size of a movie screen. Today we watch the towers fall. Today we watch news reports come in about the Pentagon. Today we watch news reports come in about a field in Pennsylvania.
Today our hands are over our eyes and our mouths. Today we are sobbing but not making a sound. Today we are praying. Today we are smelling autumn coming in through the propped-open doors of the lobby and we are running through the list of people we know in New York City and we are wondering if they also smelled this autumn morning and we are thinking, were they there? Oh, please, oh, no, oh, God, were they there?
Today I go broken and empty to my afternoon shift at work. My coworker is from Pennsylvania. I am from New York. We are barely holding it together. We are inches from screaming. We are being held together with fraying rubber bands and sheer adrenaline.
Today our boss decides we are not paying enough attention to our job and makes us turn off the television that presides with its cold unfeeling stare over the lobby.
Today we take turns shaking and vomiting and weeping in the bathroom where the clients and our boss can’t see us.
Today I get home from work and turn on the television and watch the ticker of the dead crawl along the bottom of the screen. The channel I’m watching tells the ages of those on the planes. One of the dead is just a baby. I’m having trouble breathing. Functioning. I’m watching the towers fall on endless repeat. I’m watching men leap from windows with a sort of corrupted grace. I am watching survivors painted gray with ashes stream over and over from the city I love so much. I am shaking. I am curled upon myself like a lost child. I am trying to count the dead in the ticker and I keep losing count and it seems very important, somehow, that I know how many of them there were. That each of them are counted. That each of them get given a name; that each of them get given their due.
Today, when my next-door-neighbor comes home, she asks me how I am.
Today, I tell her, “I don’t want to live in this world right now. The good got lost today.”
Today I live all of this all over again. Today and next year and the year after that; every today, I am the person I was on that day.
Today the towers fall, and they fall, and they fall; every today they fall.