the breakfast of steel and ash
every time i close my eyes i am in the same dead, evil nightmare. even in the depths of my sleep i am praying to be freed from this living insanity, i don’t dream in color anymore. just black and white, only black and white. color has left me, left the world. mostly i sit in the corner of my bedroom in brooklyn, back at my parents’ house, watching television or trying to read a book.mostly i don’t do anything. years ago i thought i wanted to be a journalist but there is not a chance in hell i want to do that anymore.
why bother, i’m already in hell and i don’t want to write it down any more than i have to. my psychiatrist is making me do this as an exercise i think it’s stupid but i promised i would try. as if, i also promised i wouldn’t commit suicide but i crossed my fingers behind my back.
i don’t know how easily some people can go back to joy and living when they were seconds away from the smell in your nostrils of death, burning, steel, crashing planes. people jumping out of windows, running wild in the streets, i try to think of it as a movie but it is no movie.
i was the one who was supposed to look after pippa her parents had named her phillipa, they lived in australia. she was my girlfriend and had flown in a couple of weeks before to attend nyu just prior to labor day. she hadn’t even known what labor day was. this was all my fault. of course it was, how could anyone say it wasn’t. i know it was. i deserve to be dead too.
i was an executive trainee on wall street and they had planned a special back to work breakfast meeting, more like a party, and you were allowed to bring a guest. of course i asked pippa and she smiled so widely her whole face lit up, her pixie hair cut made her look about sixteen and she decided for hours what she was going to wear. the last i heard it would be her flowered dress yellow and orange flowered dress. i think. i don’t remember. i’m sorry pippa, that i can’t remember that. i’m not sure, i don’t know.
i start crying and thrashing and now my mommy is in my room and she gives me some medicine to calm me down. it’s okay i like to be calmed down so i can forget for a few minutes of what my life really is. i can sleep then.
pippa and i went to the breakfast meeting holding hands, she had no classes that morning so it worked out perfectly. they served mimosas and bloody marys and pippa, of course, had a mimosa, maybe two. they served the most elaborate breakfast and after the first course pippa touched me lightly on the shoulder and whispered that she was going to find the ladies room. i smiled back at her, i felt so lucky she was in my life.
before pippa got back we felt trembling in the building, we all looked at each other maybe the building was settling, we thought. after five minutes it was much worse there was an earthquake, we assumed, the building started shaking and we thought we heard explosions. everyone ducked, we had no idea idea what was happening. i started to scream for pippa, as loud as i could, i tried to run to her and i fell. stupid me, my voice was so hoarse i could barely speak but i kept screaming for her.
several minutes later it turned out that a bomb exploded in the first building, it had effected our building too but we were lucky. we were told to go down the stairs quickly. i couldn’t leave without her but the police officers said i had to, they promised they would look for her. i made them promise. we were all covered with ash, steel rods were everywhere, i could barely breathe.
what happened after that i can barely remember, all i know is that i was alive and i waited for hours for pippa to come until they made me leave. i had to walk to brooklyn with other people in the city that had become a war zone. i waited for news of her for days, i didn’t leave my parents house, not for months. when i could go out i only went with my parents or psychiatrist to go to ground zero every day and every night but they always threw me out.
it’s been months now, pippa was killed on september 11th, i was supposed to protect her and here i am still alive. barely still alive. pippa was dead, it should have been me.it still may have to be. i make no promises. the only time I go out is to the memorial fence and i wait alone with other lost souls. we sit staring at the fence, crying, still hoping they will come back yet knowing they never will. we talk about joining them. every single day.
Dorothy, I sent you a reply, please let me know if you get it. Thanks
If this is true my heart goes out to you. If it is fiction it is really powerfully written. I have a feeling it’s true. Take care of yourself and thanks for sharing.
do you want to know?
Only if you want to tell me.
I do want to tell you because I do NOT want you to worry about me. I do live in NY and of course 9/11 changed my life forever as it did everybody’s. But, this was a work of fiction and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring enough to write me. You don’t know how much that meant to me. With warm regards, Laurie