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On the Cusp
September 10, 2011. The night prior I dreamt of a fictional ballroom on the third level of my very real three-story high school. The ballroom was a place of mass assembly, a place very high and therefore very vulnerable. A place practically naked in a vast expanse of free, open air.
The day began in reflection of that dream as well as reflections of the day before. It was a Friday.
My world history teacher was one of the few in my school to honor the ten-year anniversary of 9/ll. He devoted a majority of his class time to showing specials that relayed the factual as well as emotional grit and aftermath of the day we couldn’t remember. The specials were presented to me and a group of about fifty other kids at the time. I remotely picked up on their superficial comments relating New York to the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with the insight that the comments didn’t show the disrespect we teenagers are often accused of harboring; rather, an inevitable attempt at levity in a room chocked full of misguided, on-the-cusp lambs who didn’t know what to feel.
I noted silent tears around me but I felt like the specials were only meant to be communicating to each of us separately. I wanted and almost felt alone with the melancholy survivors and families. I feared not displaying my own confused compassion but was relieved when I felt a large drop roll down my cheek as a father retold to us the bond he once had with his heroic son. With obligation I asked a nearby friend if the application of my eye makeup had been compromised.
My sister, who is two years my senior, drove me home from school that day. She also breathed a too-gentle air as she recalled her own teacher’s rehashing of that fateful date. She said that he had asked each of the students in the class what they were doing on September 11, 2001. She breezily touched on the fact that he stressed that they share what they remembered, for her high school class would supposedly be the last with the ability to do so.
After smiling to my mother and grabbing a quick bowl of cereal, I plastered myself to my computer screen. This was typical routine for me, so my determination went overlooked.
I examined the entry on 9/ll on Wikipedia. I read more news stories of survivors and heroes.
I was driven to feel something more; to expand on the solitary tear I had released the day before. 9/11 reawakened my often-unrequited hunger.
I took a break to watch TV. That would appear normal to my oblivious family. They wouldn’t notice my uncalled-for passion if I behaved that way.
My finger was poised to press ‘play’ when a listing of a 9/11 special that had accidentally been recorded arose. I lingered, but couldn’t indulge. Surveying the living room for wandering eyes I digressed to a reality program that was a family favorite.
After the TV could no longer serve me I found myself back in front of the monitor. Sometimes I briefly engaged in a 9/11 article that caught my eye but generally stayed firm. I scrolled through the contents of my iPod. I had a myriad of styles and genres to choose from. I had personally vowed to stay away from club-inhabiting mainstream blasphemy under the belief that doing so would be disrespect to the dead. Once again I succumbed to pitfall.
Around my sacred space life flounced onward. My sister had a job taking photos of a football game for the school yearbook. My dad was working on building a deck in the yard and my mom was meeting with yet another landscaper. Alone I was exploring my impulses and relenting to the outside world. The outside world being within the walls of my own home.
Dusk was drawing near. I had spent almost the entirety of the day at the computer screen. And the weirdest part about it all was the fact that I was the only one in the house that was too young to remember.
As I trudged over to the kitchen and breached a cabinet, I noticed that the windows above the sink had been opened. I inhaled the fresh night air that helps soften the blow that always comes with the closing of summer. And then I realized that there was no reason for me to try to salvage connections that tied me to that day that had no reason to exist.
Us on-the-cusp kids, we represented that life could go on. That it went on. And trust me, it did go on.
“Katie, would you like a snack before we start watching some of our favorite TV shows? I bought some of your favorite Italian bread today.”
And with that, my mother promptly shut the windows.