After Bin Laden

May 2, 2011

In the shadows of tall buildings
The architecture is slowly peeling
Marble statues and glass dividers
Someone is watching all of the outsiders

-Jump Little Children, Cathedrals

They told me via text message. They told me to check my twitter. The twitter isn’t mine but I use it anyway. It reminded me of how they told me via text message then too, on 9/11. I was with my buddy Yazir then. I was his wingman, and vice versa. We were picking up a girl. Did we score? Did we fail? I don’t recall. When we heard the news, he said “they deserved it” and danced. He was born in Saudi Arabia. I jokingly called him a terrorist. I told him it was all downhill from here. He’s over all that now. He has a job and significantly less rage. 10 years will do that to anyone. These days, I take the PATH in to World Trade every week. I could have been there, celebrating with the others, if rehearsal hadn’t been moved up to 7 pm. It would have been an excellent excuse to drink and party with strangers. Things would have come full circle.

It’s strange how I’m of a generation that’s defined by coming of age in the post-9/11 world. It must be somewhat like being an Eastern European coming of age behind the Iron Curtain. That same reckless feeling, hollow. We lived and loved and all the while, folks were telling us there were bad people about to kill us, ghosts, basically, with impossibly long claws, prehensile tails and a stick of explosive clay. We went along, apathetic, while enhanced security, enhanced interrogation and enhanced screening were normalized. Three wars. We were kids. All we could do was grow up a little. To tell the truth, I can’t remember a time before this. I fucked my first girlfriend shortly after 9/11. I watched tens of people die, swept away by a flood in the years after. I had a gun pointed at me on the near side of that day. I graduated high school, college and grad school in the post-9/11 world, grew a metal beard, started a rock band and two metal bands, took up smoking, drinking, learned to cook but never to clean, all of this…life, for better or worse. Funny, I wasn’t even in the US in 2001, and new york was just where all the Christmas movies were set as far as I was concerned, but I wonder what it would have been like to have smoked my first cigarette in the pre-9/11 world? Would it have felt any different? This is the sort of thing that defines a generation. I’m glad it’s over.

I’ve felt like we’ve been living in Don DeLillo’s world for 10 years. Mao 2, perhaps, because that’s my favorite. That’s the book where he talks about how when the artists cede their place as the vanguard, that space is taken over by terrorists in the popular imagination. These 10 years have been a foolish time, hollow and electric. Things could happen at any minute, theoretically, though they never would, not the way we were told, but we prepared anyway. We gave up so much for so little. You’d feel cheated, if you were anything like me, young and determined to be hopeful about the world. 9/11 set up a static charge that hung in the air, infecting everything, that is only now finally finding release. In the days before today, all the passersby’s hair stood on end as they passed each other on the street.

The beginning of all this was a symbol. The beginning of the end, also. It’s okay to celebrate.

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