It’s the eleventh of September in a year I can’t remember.
It is late and I am driving from the suburbs to Dinkytown to drop a friend off at a house he lives in with something like seven other guys.
We are alone on the road and we are happy and quiet in the light of the dashboard. We are young enough that driving in these early morning hours still feels like we are getting away with something. I have a CD in my car. It has a song about the day after 9/11 on it and I put it in because it’s after midnight and I tell him maybe we have a duty to listen to it and be sad for a moment.
I tell him about the singer, that his father was a famous actor who died of AIDS and his mother died on the plane that went into the north tower. The song is Ash Wednesday and the line goes ‘no one will survive ash Wednesday alive.’ The story is sad, the melody is sad, but I think about seeing this band at the 400 Bar and laugh because I remember how people kept vandalizing it so that the sign read ‘400 Barf.’
The song ends and we listen to Phoenix’ Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which every person I know at the time is in love with and I liked the way it was always playing wherever I went.
It’s the eleventh of September in another year I can’t remember.
I am alone in my bedroom in Minneapolis reading a poem I had found in an anthology a few months earlier. It is called ‘September Twelfth, 2001’ and the line goes ‘Alive, we open our eyelids on our pitiful share of time, we bubbles rising and bursting in a boiling pot.’ I am moved by it in a way that makes it feel like my insides have been rearranged.
I type the poem out into an email and send it to a guy. He never responds but tells me a year later that he has saved every poem I’ve ever sent him. This conversation becomes a cartographical mission in which I map out the low expectations I will have for my future relationships. I will come to expect this ad hoc revelation, and excuse a multitude of sins with confidence that this wholesome explanation is coming. I find familiarity with monologue, talking to someone instead of with them because I am afraid they don’t want to carry their end of the conversation anyway and I am happy to do it for us both.
It’s the eleventh of September during the happiest fall of my life.
I am reading so much and I am having dinner with people every night to talk about books and thinkers and sheepishly, all the things about ourselves that we are anxious for someone else to know, hold, and love. Every morning a professor reads a poem before class and I save stacks of them in a yellow folder. The following January I get one of them framed. It is Raymond Carver’s Late Fragment and the entire poem goes “And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” It’s the only framed picture I have in most of the apartments I live in for the next 10 years.
It’s the eleventh of September the first year I feel like my life is going to be okay.
I don’t know it yet but I’ve just met someone over work email who will become like a brother. I am in an airport hotel room in Flushing, NY and I gchat my best friend details about my cancelled flight and tell her “I want you with me every second.” I am exhausted and I have been gone almost two weeks. I have my mom’s Kindle and I read an essay in my hotel bed called Playing Prostitute and think about how much work I have to do to be the kind of writer I want to be. I have doubts about whether my life in Minnesota is enough for that.
The story goes “Madeline has been an escort for over two years now (the high class, cool kind, not the tragic streetwalking kind), and has lived and worked in various places around the world: New York, LA, Paris, Belgium, and anywhere else she decides to travel.”
It’s the eleventh of September last year.
I am in a hotel in Colorado with a friend taking turns snapping photos of each other sitting with my laptop at the desk where Stephen King wrote The Shining which I have just read for the fourth time in preparation for the trip.
We go to a nice dinner and order five dishes for the two of us and laugh giddily about how beautiful we feel in the mountains. It is one of the best trips of my life because I spend so much time driving for no purpose other than to see something pretty or be somewhere people say is important. We sleep together in a giant bed that is supposed to be haunted so that I can write about it for a story, but nothing happens. We wake up happy and drink coffee outside where we can’t shut up about the way everything looks and feels.
Nothing back home seems real to either of us anymore and I realize that mountain air is a cure all. Getting in my car and driving is a cure all. Problems have geographic limits. Like the hotel ghosts I was there to write about — I believe they’re there alright, but you decide how much you let them hurt you.
The line goes “That’s your job in this hard world, to keep your love alive and see that you get on, no matter what. Pull your act together and just go on.”