With hands and feet together
Bound fast, must lie in hell.
The scourges and the fetters
And all that thou hast suffered,
All this deserveth now my soul.
A VIEW FROM THE WINDOWS OF THE WORLD
By Duncan Roy
I am gazing over the wide open city. It’s difficult, due to the thick black smoke, to tell exactly what is going on below me. Obviously there is chaos. Occasionally a small helicopter will peer at me from a long way off. I can see men with cameras or men speaking into their hands in which, I presume, are microphones.
Even from this distance I can make out that each and everyone one of the men and women who look over at this building is appalled. I have waved franticly but I am not waving any more as it now seems so pointless. Grave. This situation is very grave. I can hear myself repeating the word over and over.
I have been told that I am very good at coping in stressful or difficult situations. Every one of my co-workers, in a test designed to articulate each of our particular strengths, came out strong on my coping skills.
When I last saw them, my co-workers, they were each and every one silently trading in a bubble of self-absorption, calculating and recalculating the money that they would earn for this particular day, September 11th 2001.
It is a beautiful day. I can see the wide open city. I can see birds on the horizon and wonder if they ever fly this high. I am momentarily jealous that they can fly and I cannot. If I could fly right now I might take off into the east Village and drink cappuccino. I would order it ‘too hot to drink’ that’s what my lover would say. “Too hot to drink, ‘cause nobody likes cold coffee.”
I have tried calling my lover but his cell phone is switched off. I know where he is. In bed, asleep, unaware. Unaware that there is chaos on the streets and unaware that two jet planes have smashed into the place where I work. He is recovering. We passed each other silently in the hall as he came home from a late night in the city and I set off to work. I know that he smelt toothpaste on my lips as he kissed me briefly. I asked him if he had been smoking cigarettes-again. He just smiled; pulling off his shirt and pants and curling into the warm bed I had just left behind.
I heard him say, “Come back to bed-you work too hard.” I pretended like I didn’t hear.
If I were a bird I would fly to the window where he sleeps surrounded by the things that we own, in the smells that are ours. This situation is grave. He doesn’t love me anymore-he loves crystal meth. We are not tender any more so if I were a bird I would also have to have another magical authority so that I could travel through time and be with the man I loved-but I have no wings and the city is so wide.
Are you asleep? Can you hear me? If I think hard enough about you can I wake you? “Jimmy, wake up!” He’s not asleep-he’s unconscious. When he wakes he’ll still look tired. Today, however, when he wakes up and flicks open the case of his silver cell phone he will hear my voice explaining everything I wanted him to know when I was still alive.
“I wanted you to know that I once loved you and if I had still loved you this morning I may have taken off my suit and climbed back into bed and risked everything-because I loved you.”
I tried to remember the day I met him but that moment had been erased.
“Does this mean that because I don’t love you I am looking over the city from the upper most floor of the fractured twin towers?”
I was frantic to remember. Did we meet on-line?
“No, of course not.”
I can’t remember where we met! I panic-my breath tight in my lungs. Help me! I think it but I can’t say it. I can’t scream it out loud because this is a fucking dream-isn’t it? When I scream out in a dream my voice is strangled, my mouth cannot open wide and call out. Who would hear me? Help me! I sit down by a huge pipe, amongst a forest of antennae. I can smell the fuel; hear the wind and an ominous rumble, like an explosion deep in the heart of the building. I get up again and run the length of the north side until I get to the corner and haul myself onto the edge and look down.
I say out loud, “I am not scared.” I wasn’t scared the first time.
The others were petrified, praying, paralysed. Barney’s mouth was still bleeding from the gash on his lip.
I shout out loud, “What are you keeping me alive for?”
Some of us tried to get up on to the roof but the door was locked. After the first plane hit Barney told us to stay at our desks, the dislocated voice from the walls told us to stay at our desks.
When June saw the first woman fall out of the smoke a few minutes after the impact, after it happened to the other building. That building was our mirror. Out of our mirror fell a fair latina woman with no expression on her face, dressed neatly in her white cotton blouse, tumbling through the air. The women said ‘fuck that’ and left the office. I stood up and looked around. I expected to follow the women but the men stayed behind.
I was torn, I wanted to leave with the women and June said to me, “Come on Ed-come with us. The other tower could fall on us.”
Barney screamed, “Are you kidding?”
I told them that I would see them later.
“Don’t let that asshole bully you.” She said.
Now look at me. I am on the roof and they are drinking cappuccino in the East Village looking up in awe with millions of other Americans at the grave situation in which I now find myself, coping not screaming as determined by company commissioned aptitude tests.
I am sitting demurely on the edge of the roof. Looking over the edge, at the batmen and women falling to their deaths, unable to fly. Then, I thought that I should call my mother but I thought better of it.
“A gay son is a dead son and God will punish you for embracing the devil.” she said.
God would and could if he was sought.
I scrolled through the hundred odd names on my cell phone and could not see one name of one person that I wanted to share my predicament-every one of the names on my cell were names of men and women with whom I could share a pleasant evening in the city, at the Hampton’s, skiing in Aspen, at bare chested parties in Miami/Fire Island/white party/black party/Sydney Mardi Gras. Every one of those names could cast a spell. But how would I tell anyone of them where I was now? Oh my God. They might say “Oh my God.” Then they would tell me that help was on the way but I knew the moment we felt the impact that help would never come, and when the floor began to buckle and the smoke was hot and thick and the window smashed- I knew the truth of my predicament.
There was only one person I wanted to call but he was ten years in the ground, scattered in a field behind an English church. It is a terrible thing to see a man ravaged with cancer. Sonny died in my arms. I wish that I could call him now. He would know just the right thing to say. He would say something like: ‘take a deep breath’. He would know that it would calm me. He never knew me get sober, but if he had known me now he would tell me to say the serenity prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Accept the things I cannot change.
A few weeks after Sonny died I took a train to Axminster, hired a small car and carried his ashes to the back of a tiny medieval church in Dorset where he had been happy as a child. ‘Unfettered’ that’s how he described it and I had to look for the word unfettered in the dictionary because I wasn’t sure what it meant. I sat behind the quaintly hipped church for a long time that warm, fragrant July evening. I sat and watched baby rabbits pull at tufts of clover and tiny bats flutter in and out of the hedgerow. I looked at the hand drawn map Sonny gave me just before he passed.
I was sitting where x marked the spot. He gave other instructions.
1. Do not cry.
2. Go where the love is.
3. Delete my number from your cell phone.
4. Stop drinking and taking drugs.
I tried not to cry. I went where the love was but could not always identify what form the love took. I drove back to London and found an AA meeting on the Kings Road and never took another drink or drug from that day to this.
It took me an age to delete his number because for weeks his number was still operational and if I dialled his number I could hear his voice asking me to leave a message after the beep. I would call when I missed him most and, knowing that no one would ever hear, I would leave messages pretending that he was still alive, asking if he was on his way home from the office, would he please pick up some milk, make him promises I knew I could never keep.
Then, one day, the ominous single tone told me that his number was gone, along with the cheery greeting. It was then that I cried buckets, talked about it with my sponsor and without warning pressed the delete button and moved on.
I wondered how long it would take to delete my name from the cell phone of all the people I knew?
The spring after Sonny died I moved back to Manhattan. The home I left behind in San Francisco reminded me of Sonny. Each room in the mid century post and beam-stripped of anything that could have reminded either one of us we had shared any sort of life. In the kitchen of all the gadgets he liked to collect and I liked to hide away were boxed in their original saved boxes. There was a waffle maker, a small grill that lived on the counter, a juicer, a coffee grinder, a magi mix (unused) and countless others. I tried to donate them to Good Will but they won’t accept electrical items so I sent them to my God Fearing Mother who could never throw anything away. It made me chuckle.
Through the afternoon, bay area, misty gloom I sat on the floor of our apartment. I was wearing a mid length camel topcoat with a beige velvet collar. I had bought the coat in London at Harrods with Sonny three years before. We had a plan for our old age that included camel coats as essential accessories. We would dress like English gentlemen and bowl along Sloan Street in out velvet collars and black lacquered canes.
Before I met Sonny I didn’t know anything about velvet collars, black lacquer, London or Harrods. I was 20 years and Sonny was 32. Good God. I met him in the zoological gardens in Sydney Australia. He was staring at a huge cobweb strung between two trees. The huge, scribble of a Huntsman spider cobweb had captivated Sonny.
It wasn’t the first time I had noticed him.
I had seen him lying in the sun with his friends at Tamarama-the gay beach. My friends stared at him from under their dark glasses. ‘Lordy-that boy is fine.’ Justin said and rolled over to stare at me. Justin’s body all glistening and gay. ‘He is fine.’ It was true. Justin jabbed his cigarette butt into the sand. ‘He could have any one of us.’ He sneered.
I hadn’t ever left the USA before. It was my first year of out gayness. Justin and his friends had adopted me and insisted that I come with them to the Sydney Mardi Gras-Justin called it a ‘gathering of the clans’. He sat in the Big Cup in Chelsea and painted a picture of gay paradise. ‘Men hold hands openly on the street’. When we got there the paradise he promised was true.
Every morning I got up very early-even after a late or heavy night-I couldn’t bear missing out on anything-ever. Justin, who shared my room but not my bed, would groan and tell me that at his age (26) getting up at that time (8am) in the morning was illegal. I went every day, first thing, to City Gym and worked out. I alternated body parts and did split sets. Occasionally there was an attractive boy or man in the steam room and if I was in the mood I might let him suck my cock or I his. I would have breakfast at the Dov café in Darlinghurst opposite the red sand stone prison then take the 21 bus to Bronte, have a fruit smoothie in The Bogie Hole then walk the half-mile along the cliffs to the gay beach at Tamarama. All afternoon I would lie in the sun with my friends or loll in the surf.
We had all come for the big event, the gay and lesbian parade and the huge gay party afterwards. Occasionally, instead of my gym routine, I explored the polite city of Sydney. After looking at aboriginal art in the New South Wales Art gallery I headed off toward the Sydney Opera House by way of Lady Macquarie’s Park. It was only 10.30 but already it was fiercely hot and I was ducking in and out of the shade to avoid burning myself. On the pavement ahead of me I saw the confident man from the beach that Justin said could have anyone he wanted. He was wearing a pair of well-cut shorts, a white cotton vest and he was carrying a straw hat with a wide brim.
He turned, looked at me and said, “Hello mister Tamarama.” He was British. “You thought I was American? That’s ok-I live in New York. I look like an American and my teeth are good-like an American.”
I stood silently and listened to him think all those things about his teeth as clearly as if he were saying them. No, this is absurd! I challenged him, as he stood looking over at me: without opening my lips I said, “Come here and kiss me.”
I told him to kiss me in my thoughts-come here and kiss me-and he did. Just like that. He kissed me under the cobweb and for ten years I never kissed another man. I never let another man make love to me. I looked into his face every day and mapped it so that if I never saw it again I would remember what he looked like..indelibly..forever.
Who couldn’t love a man with raven black hair and navy blue eyes?
Over 20 thousand people work in both the twin towers. If you could take off all the clothes of every man and every woman who worked in the twin towers and made piles of every item: pants, skirts, spectacles how large would those piles be? If all the men who worked in the twin towers jerked off into a big bucket how many quarts of sperm would there be?
This morning, after I left our apartment, I walked to the 7am AA Meeting on Christopher Street. ‘A splendid September day’, that’s how they described it on the radio. Barney had made it abundantly clear that we had a great deal of work to do so I left before the serenity prayer, which I never usually do. You know, they always said to me wagging their AA fingers that if you put anything before the rooms of AA you’d lose it. (I am losing it). At the South Tower the elevators were crammed and as usual I felt sick as we elevated. I never stopped feeling a small amount of sickness as we catapulted onto the 101st floor listening to a synthesised version of ‘here comes the sun’. On my floor the receptionist ignored me and continued looking at he gossip magazine containing multiple images of the same celebrity doing the same thing. I poured myself a decaf and added half and half. I sat at my desk. June handed me a stack of papers and sucked sugar off the back of her thumb from the doughnut she had just finished eating.
“Did you tell him?” she asked. I shook my head. She wants me to tell my lover that I don’t love him any more.
“I am going to buy the new Bob Dylan record at lunch from J and R music world.” I reply.
She looks at me steadfastly. “Bob Dylan? What’s he goner do? He’s not going to help yaw.”
Tim, Lyle, Jason, Mackie, Mickey, Blue and Barney sat and checked over the London figures and then the Japanese. Bob Dylan-he’s not going to help yaw. At 8.46 all of us heard a huge explosion. “Holy Cow!” Jason called out and we all ran to the window. The impact was on the other side of the north tower on about the 90th floor-a few floors higher than us. We heard it and felt it and we could see above us a great deal of smoke. After a few minutes Barney told us to go back to work. Nobody took any notice. He was immediately hysterical. He wasn’t used to being ignored. There was a huge amount of chatter in the room as we very quickly divined what had happened. It must have been an aeroplane. Arielle had heard it. An aeroplane? How could that have happened? Lyle and Mackie called their wives and told them what was going on. There voices were matter of fact, as I remember it now, I guess they were disguising their fear. Mackie said that there had been an explosion on world trade one-the other building. Eventually the men returned to their workstations but the women, June, Laura, Ami and Arielle kept staring at the smoke.
Then June said, “I’m getting out of here. That building could fall on us.”
Barney screamed at them to sit down. Arielle gave him the finger and grabbed her coat and keys and left the office. Barney called out to her- “You’re fired! All of you!”
Ami said, “Fire us all-we could die in here.”
Then the dislocated voice said. ‘Go back to your desks, there’s nothing to fear.’ Barney looked very pleased with himself and the men obediently sat down because the dislocated voice said so.
June hesitated then said, “Fuck that.” And left the office, the remaining women followed her.
“Come on Ed-don’t let that ass hole bully you.” June pulled at my lapel.
I smiled and told June that I would see her tomorrow.
Barny screamed, “You won’t see her tomorrow-she’s fired.”
June said, “See you tomorrow boys-unless that thing comes crashing down on you’ll.”
I sighed and diligently set to work. Mackie called his wife again as the dislocated voice repeated its reassurance that everything in our building was just fine. This time Mackie wasn’t so sure-I heard him tell her that it felt bad-it looks horrible. ‘It’s secure here.’ Lyle reassured his wife. Barney told him angrily to get off the fucking phone and get back to work. Mackie’s wife must have heard Barney say that to her husband and I wonder what she’s thinking now?
I sat and wondered if I hadn’t made the wrong choice to stay in this office-not now not forever. At nine o’clock my AA friend Michael L called to ask if I was ok. I told him that I was in the South Tower and that I was fine. He confirmed what the others were saying quietly that it was a plane that had crashed into the side of the North Tower. He was watching it on the TV. I told him that Barney wouldn’t let us watch the TV. Michael L said, ‘Oh, that’s a little mean spirited.’ Which if you knew Michael L was like hearing him call Barney a cunt. We were a fairly new AA friends, he seemed so incredibly calm and spiritual. He reminded me of Sonny. Then I started getting blackberry messages that a plane had hit the south tower.
As I said good-bye to Michael L I knew that our building had been struck. I could feel the impact of it very clearly, and then the building began to shudder. We all looked at one another nervously and each one of us stood up simultaneously and ran to the window-immediately a vast plume of black smoke obscured our view.
I thought, this is the beginning of the end of my life. A thought I had had many years before.
Sitting in the empty apartment where we had spent so much of our ‘married’ life. It seemed impossible that we would never share a moment together ever again and that every day that passed would be a different sort of day because he was not there. I hauled myself off of the floor and as I did I caught a glimpse of a tiny shred of paper poking between the skirting and the floorboards. When I pulled it out it was an unopened letter addressed to me. I did not open it immediately as it occurred to me that perhaps Sonny, whose unmistakable writing it was, intended for me never to have seen it-then again, why didn’t he simply destroy it? So, I opened it and I read:
Darling, I knew that one day you would read this and that I would be already gone. How did I know? I was sitting here alone in our beautiful home that is so full of love and friendship and consolation and I decided to write you a letter that you would only find once our home is truly dismantled. I know that when we leave this place it will be you who will be last to leave.
So, my darling, I wanted you to know that when I met you I had, by then, let so many mister rights pass me by. Before we met you have no idea just how incomplete I had been-what terrors I had suffered before I met you-I was so bored before I met you-but I had no idea that I was bored or incomplete before I met you. I thought that life was perfect before I met you. And then I met you and every day I was delighted to see your face. Inspired by your unconditional love. What an incredible journey!
I lay the letter down for a moment and remembered it all for myself. We traveled the world either because we had to for Sonny’s job or because we loved to explore. Together, if either one of us missed a trick the other would reveal it. I looked back at the neat blue ink and continued to read. Together.
I know that one-day you will find another man. You’re so young. Let him treat you well. Let your heart sing. Remember, life is seldom like we expect it. It is full of terrors and iniquity. We enjoyed a rare paradise and I want you to hear me darling when I tell you that whatever horrors you may endure I will be there for you. I will be there to help you through your darkest moments. All you have to do is call my name out loud and I will be there to help you.
I love you-I have always loved you.
It was the strangest thing-I felt numb. The letter was unusually dramatic, melo-dramatic. I tucked the letter back into its envelope and into my breast pocket. When I got settled in my new apartment in New York I added it to all the other letters from Sonny that I kept in a green leather box and locked it.
Mackie called his wife immediately and let her know what had happened. My cell rang-it was June-she was crying. She had seen what just happened. All of the city, anyone with a television all over the world had just seen the place where I work get hit in the neck by a jet liner-a jet plane full of people. God, grant me the serenity. I couldn’t really hear what June was saying there was a great deal of noise around her. People wailing and screaming very loudly. Oh my God! I told her that I thought that we were probably trapped and that we were going to search for a way out. I told her that there were four staircases and that perhaps one of them would be available for us. June listened to me and I realized that she was softly crying. She knew that there was no way out. I told June that several of us tried to find a way out-in the shortest time we ran down some stairs but the smoke got too thick and then we ran up to see if we could be evacuated from the roof. The heavy metal door to the roof was locked. Lyle banged on it several times in sheer frustration-Barney pushed passed him and said, “let me try.’ His abrasive voice infuriating Lyle. Lyle shouted, “let me try?” and then he turned on Barney.
“This is your fuckin’ fault you bastard-this is your fault! Sit down-work harder!”
The others looked menacingly at him and fearing for his life he stepped backwards.
Barney whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“Sorry?” Mackie said. “My wife and kids are gonna be sorry.” And even though he was calm Mackie took a step toward Barney and punched him hard in the face. Barney’s lip was badly cut and blood dripped onto his crisp white shirt.
“Stop it! For fucks sake stop it.” Blue and Tim separated the two men and we all just stopped and looked at each other in silence, knowing that we were past recrimination. So with immediate calm, with resignation there on the stair well we were as one. I took Mackie by the elbow and lead him down the stair. The others followed.
We made our way through the thickening, acrid smoke to another office on an unfamiliar floor. Even now I felt as if we were intruding, a sense of propriety overwhelmed me. This was someone else’s reception, someone else’s stack of magazines to be read by someone else’s clients. Were these people our competitors only an hour ago? Like visitors uninvited into someone else’s office we did not meet with hostile cries but with other trapped, desperate dusty people who were either silent or crying or having quiet, serious conversations on the telephone with loved ones. I found a bottle of water and drank it. My phone was vibrating in my pocket. There was no one down on the ground that could save me so I decided to silence it. 42 missed calls. Listening to anyone right now, all those floors below me, would simply add to my distress.
‘Who did this to us?’ One man cried out. It wasn’t a question I wanted answered.
There was a woman screaming, “Palestinians! I know it! Suicide bombers!”
The others looked at her benignly-they knew that theirs was not to reason why. Bleak, this situation is bleak.
A young African American man joined us, covered in white dust. Tears carved through the white dust into his black skin. His lips, the colour of black cherries. He told us that there was no way out, that a few people had made it past the point of impact but the heat and the smoke were intolerable. He told us that the floors below us were buckling-that the floors below that were collapsing. He said. I don’t want to be burned to death. Accept the things I cannot change. One of the terrified women agreed with him and they attempted to open one of the windows. We watched as the young black man vainly kicked the toughened glass. His limbs like jelly, his suit ripped, his eyes wild-the woman joined in and finally they used a computer console to break open the glass, charging it like something medieval. The glass smashed, the console disappeared into the air outside and a strong cool wind filled the unfamiliar office, important papers-precious less than an hour ago-blew from unoccupied desks, desks never ever to be occupied again.
The fresh air from the broken window transported me to a fantasy that Sonny and I had shared of walking a dog we never owned on the long, empty, off-season beach at Fire Island.
The cold, fresh air was a wonderful relief. I had momentarily closed my eyes, remembering the surf. When I opened them the young black man was stood on the edge of the window, facing us-looking at us-he smiled and said, quietly, the word, ‘Concentrate.’ And then he fell backwards from the 98th floor. Tim, Lyle and Mackie stifled their tears. Barney sat on the floor and I looked out of the window. Head first the boy sailed downward. At first he looked serene but at about the 50th floor he began to struggle in the air-I pulled my head in. I was sure that the flesh they found was struggling still. I knew instinctively that his choice had been correct. Burn to death? It’s a terrible way to die.
The others looked back at me silently. Like a painting by Gericault in the Louvre, The Raft of the Medusa. Sonny had explained that Gericault’s difficulty was to choose from the drama of the shipwreck narrative a single, significant, and pictorially effective moment. The others were now staring back at me. This was that single, significant, pictorially effective moment. I felt sick as another two strange people fell. I tried to pray and seek some sort of comfort and then I remembered:
Be near me Lord, when dying Part not from me , And to my succour come flying Lord, and set me free , And when my heart must languish In death’s last awful throe , Release me from my anguish , By your own pain and woe.
The young black boys flying suicide prompted another flurry of wild and desperate suggestions of alternative ways that we could save ourselves. Is there something that we can use as a parachute? Can we climb down the face? There must be another way. We were all dreaming that we could be spider-man, super-man or just anyone who wouldn’t be us trapped in a burning building with no hope of rescue. The smoke grew thicker. The building groaned, steel tendons snapping, glass breaking-an unidentified stench now filled the office. More windows were smashed, more people arrived, faceless desperate men and women. No names. Connected in death. One woman severely burned. The smell of her burnt skin made Mackie heave.
Crowding around the broken glass. Our views obscured by black smoke. Tantalised by the sound of helicopters. Three women, one by one threw themselves out of separate windows. They were quick and efficient. I have sleeping pills, the blonde woman said-how long will they take to work? She pulls out her bag and opens the tub of sleeping pills. We watch her empty the black and red capsules into the palm of her hand and like squirming bugs she swallows them.
In death’s last awful throe. Release me from my anguish. By your own pain and woe.
The men I worked with, unable to call their wives, their fathers and Mothers, bet friends and buddies. Their cell phones dead, their blackberry’s powerless. We stood together, defeated. Blue said that he wanted to jump. His blonde hair matted on his forehead. I don’t want to burn alive in this inferno. Blue laid his head on my chest like a small child, like the child he was leaving behind. I held him close to me in my arms and it reminded me of another dying man in another place in another time. The men from our office gathered together. We stood in a strange intimate shambles on the carpet and Lyle held out his hand and I took it. “It’s time isn’t it?” he said. “This is our time.” We all nodded our sad, reigned heads. After a moments further agreement we decided to jump together-all 6 of us who had worked happily and unhappily for five years in that building.
Those who wanted to found quiet corners and prayed. Occasionally a yelp of pain would puncture the human silence. The roar below us becoming more evident and with no one to call I collected them one by one until we were together for one last time.
I said to Barney, “I want you to know that I forgive you. We all know that you behaved very badly but I can’t not forgive you.” Barney nodded silently. We had decided to die together. The others hugged and said their farewells. We held hands in a circle and even though it was the most serious and morbid moment in any of our lives when we jumped we were smiling. This was our choice not to die in hellish flames. Tim, fat tears on his face, fell away first with Mackie holding his right hand, Blue on his left. I held onto Barney and Lyle. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The circle complete. The courage to change the things I can. Barney kept quiet, he looked like a guilty child. The wisdom to know the difference. We fell in an organized formation. We started falling, falling so fast-my jacket filled full of air and for a moment I thought my fall was slowing. My heart began to race. I was only now beginning to panic; all of my worst child hood nightmares came upon me. Then my fingers were snatched by the violent updraught out of Barney’s hand. I looked, momentarily, into his face. He flailed toward me trying to catch hold of me. My jacket caught in the violent wind and I began tumbling-separated from them all, helpless-alone-God, grant me the serenity! One hundred and fifty miles an hour, only 4 seconds had passed-yanked away from my friends. And then it happened. A miracle began to happen around me. No more believable nor spectacular than a plaster Mother of Christ crying real tears, or the wounds of Christ bleeding real blood. My back arched. My lungs filled with cold, gasping air.
My lips trembling I gathered all of my strength and screamed, “Help me Sonny! Help me. I am not at peace!”
I must have passed out for half a second because when I regained my conscience I felt safe-and as I relaxed and began to call his name I fell away from myself-my body fell away from me. Accepting the things I cannot change. Help me Sonny. I thought that out of the thickening smoke I could see his beautiful face. The face I had mapped was all about me. He warmed the cold air around me and instead of falling I was suspended then-diving though water, in warm clear water. I was treading the warm, clear water expectantly. I began to soar upwards, slowly at first then faster, as fast as I fell I now forced my way skyward, like Superman. I thought, this is how Superman would do it. His hands outstretched, away from disaster.
At that moment I knew two things-that this was indeed, unquestionably my time to die but not falling to my death-flesh on the sidewalk, my body dashed against the marble plaza. You see, he would never let that happen to me-would you Sonny? Be quiet-be still, he whispered. Be quiet and still and say your prayers. I heard him as if he were still wrapped around me whispering into my ear. I could feel him by me. He was working very hard to save me pulling me upwards. Where were we going? Where was he taking me? Now I was higher than both the burning towers. He was holding me so tightly but I sensed that he could only do so much-that his limit had been almost reached. I heard these words: Prepare yourself for the truth. It was another voice. Clearly and definitely in my ear. I could not look behind me to see who had said this. All I was certain of was that it was not Sonny. Then I began to sink, sinking through treacle-back toward the towers-the North tower. I sank onto the roof of the North Tower. Sonny had carried me upward through the grinning jumpers because he loved me so much and this was the promise he made that nothing bad would ever happen to me but this was God’s time and he had other plans. Now look, instead of falling or flying I was headed down toward the roof of the other tower, the tower that had been hit first.
And as fast as my hope for a continuing life had been so I knew that my death was imminent-as imminent as it had been yesterday and the day before that-and that was that.
Before the miracle I was only a few seconds from death-a heap of steaming flesh on the sidewalk, a charred and boiling bag of meat and juice. Maybe I had already fallen to my death? Perhaps I was already dead and this was merely the out of body experience I had always imagined at the moment I would die? The dream some of us had had of falling to our deaths and waking in a cold sweat is once again interrupted but this time by another more terrible truth. I was alive! Kept alive by extraordinary forces-by Sonny.
After I met Sonny I had had a dream that included images of my falling violently from a motorcycle on a deserted country road. Watching from a place above the accident I see that my head is placed in a black plastic bag and I know instinctively that I will never be unable to re-enter my body-that my injuries are so catastrophic that no amount of my force of will, would ever let me live ever again. And so it is at this crucial moment of my death that I know that the end is soon to be upon me. And so it is that I no longer scream at the helicopters to save me because I am not entirely sure that I exist. And so.
I watched the other building fall and knew my destiny.
Sonny taught me how to forgive my mother and tell her so. I forgive you who ever did this to me and thousands like me. I forgive you. I have no option or I go to my grave laden with resentment and hatred-that’s no good way to die. That’s how my grand mother died, how my mother will die. Not me. Sonny taught me to forgive the world.
I could feel the whole building begin to shudder. I lay on the roof and pressed my ear against the black, soft tar surface and I could hear, deep inside the building the groaning, creaking, breaking structure and knew instinctively that this was the end. God, grant me the serenity. I lay on my back facing the blue September sky and the floor began to fall. Like an aeroplane sinking briefly in turbulent air. Accept the things I cannot change. I held onto my phone. I am sinking away from the blue and into the black. Perhaps I can survive this? Perhaps there will be another miracle. I can feel the fingers of my left hand tangle in something and I knew that they had been torn away. I can survive without my fingers, right? Without my arm? Many people live their whole lives without limbs. Perhaps I can survive this? I felt a sharp and uncomfortable pain in my shin and knew that it had been snapped. I am fragmenting. My hip grazing against something and then slammed into another. I feel the heat. I want to open my eyes but I daren’t. If I survive this I don’t want to be blind. I want to call Sonny. I lift the phone to my ear and I can hear the phone ringing. Come on Sonny-let me hear your voice. After a few seconds someone answers.
“Ed? Is that you?”
“Sonny! You’re there!”
“I’m waiting for you Ed. Just a few more moments and I’ll be waiting for you.”