9/11

The garbage men wake me up at 4am. They are dragging a dumpster across the alley below the window. It makes a loud, screeching, destructive sound. After it stops, I fall back asleep.

Christi wakes me up at 7:30. “Joey, it’s time,” she says.

I walk to the bathroom and look in the mirror. My hair is greasy and my pores are clogged, but why take a shower when I might die in a few hours?

After breakfast, as Christi is yelling at me that we should have left ten minutes ago, I stuff my clothes into a bag.

In the car, Christi turns on the radio. It’s DJ Bob. “This morning we’re paying tribute to 9/11 with a countdown of 11 songs. Next is "In the Name of Love” by U2.

One man caught in a barbed wire fence
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach
One man betrayed with a kiss

Christ looks over to me. “I wouldn’t want to be flying today,” she says. “Especially if you’re afraid of flying.”

“Really?” I say.

The road to the airport is empty. Christi pulls up to the drop-off curb and slows down enough for me to jump out. “Have a good flight,” she says.

The airport is empty. At security an old woman confiscates my hand cream, which means if they find my body, it will dry, cracked hands. As the security guard throws the lotion in the trash, she gives me a nasty look.

I take to the shuttle to my terminal and walk down the long empty gray-carpeted hall. I need some coffee. The only place open is Sammy’s Irish Pub. I sit down and order a coffee.

A man with a goatee is drinking coffee and smoking Marlboro Lights. He waits until I take a sip of my coffee and says, “Airport’s pretty empty this morning. Never seen it like this.”

“Yeah,” I say. “I suppose it’s not too surprising, for today.”

“Guess people don’t want to travel today.”

I take another sip.

“Where you flying?” he says.

“New York,” I say

“City?”

“Yeah.”

“Jesus, I’d hate to be flying there today. Terrible, terrible what happened. Lost 200 coworkers that day.”

“That’s terrible.”

“Yeah, terrible day. I’ll never forget.”

A moment of silence. I sip my coffee.

“Where you flying?” I say.

“Chicago.”

“That’s a nice city.”

“Yeah, it’s great. It’s probably the the biggest city that’s so clean and nice. And pretty safe too–these days, anyway.” He takes a drag and looks at the television behind the bar. It shows the winner of a Formula One race. “He’s the highest paid athlete in the world,” he says.

“Oh yeah?”

“Eighty million a year.”

“Without endorsements?”

“Yeah, without any of that shit, just his regular salary.”

“That’s a lot of money.”

“Hell of a lot of money.”

I take another sip; he takes another drag.

“Nice day out today,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Nice day. This morning I get up and says to my wife, this is just the same weather as nine-eleven, just clear and beautiful out.”

“Yeah.”

“Whatta you do?” he says?

“I’m a paralegal at a law firm.”

“That’s nice.”

“How about you?”

“I do consulting for the automotive industry.”

“Interesting.”

“Yeah, I love it.”

He stands up and throws two dollars down. “Well, I gotta go. Have a good flight.”

“You too.”

The bartender looks over at me from the end of the bar. She’s wearing too much eye shadow. “More coffee?”

I say yes.

“Here you go, sweetie,” she says.

A woman walks into the bar and sits down. Her face is worn and she isn’t wearing any makeup. She’s wearing plastic cogs.

“What kind of beer you got?” she asks the bartender and takes out a pack of cigarettes.

The bartender tells her.

“Michelob,” the woman says and lights up. She looks over at me. “Airport’s empty this morning.”

“Yeah, pretty empty.”

“I didn’t realize what day it was when I made the ticket but I says to my husband that I fly so much that it don’t matter, I don’t care about dying.” She laughs.

“I didn’t realize it until I bought the ticket too.”

She takes a drag and then a sip of beer. “But, you know, flying today, that’s the greatest victory.”

I nod my head.

We sit in silence.

“Where you flying?” she says.

“New York,” I say.

“City?”

“Yeah.”

“Live there?”

“Yeah.”

“You there on 9/11?”

“No, I was in California. I was in school there.”

She puts her cigarette down on the ashtray and takes out some lotion from her bag. She squirts a db on her hands and rubs them. She sees me looking at the lotion. “Those bastards didn’t get this.” She laughs and her laughs becomes a phlegmy cough. She sips the beer to clear her throat.

“So where are you flying?” I say.

“Albany,” she says. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be flying to New York City today.