manhattan challenge II: fin

Still, there is a need, now and always, for sharply felt local intimacies. I stood by the corner and watched the woman's dilemma. It could have been grief, it could have been grace, or even a dark, perverse sense of humor. She held the forkful of cake for a very long time. As if it were waiting to speak to her, to tell her what to do. Finally, she ate a bite of it. She sat looking into the distance. She pulled her lips along the silver tines to catch whatever chocolate remained there, then turned the fork upside down, ran her tongue along it. It was the gesture of someone whose body was in one place, her mind in another. She pierced the cake again.

The darkness rose over the Upper East Side. The woman finished her dessert. She didn't pinch the crumbs. She placed the fork across the plate. She paid. She left. She didn't look at anyone as she turned the corner toward Lexington Avenue, but she still returns to me after all this time, one corner after another, a full decade now.

My mind is decorated with splinters. Ten years of enmity and loss. Bush, Cheney, Blackwater, Halliburton, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, bin Laden. Another long series of wars, another short distance travelled. We do not necessarily need anniversaries when there are things we cannot forget. Yet I also recall this simple, sensual moment. I still have no idea - after a decade of wondering - whether I am furious at the woman and the way she ate chocolate cake, or whether it was one of the most audacious acts of grief I've seen in a long, long time.

(colum mccann in the new yorker, 09.12.11)


Amid Privilege said...

My thoughts are with the city and the people and the country we were then.

kidchamp said...

a new ritual has grown up around calamity in these parts: when things like hurricanes and credible threats approach us, we're offered a car and urged to drive away. i understand the impulse - i am a selfish wife, and i tell joe to flatten himself if one of his public events goes horribly awry, to lay down as i do on the ocean floor when a massive wave crests over me - but this is our home. where else could one be?

my local blood bank has been begging me to commemorate 9/11 by returning to donate. what a country we'd be if we overwhelmed those beds again.

Cara said...

So beautiful, so dark.  

Hannah Mae said...

On 9/11, *the* 9/11, I put on my giant baggy combat pants and stuffed the pockets with D batteries so I would be heavy enough to donate blood, but by the time I got down to the blood bank, the line was around the block.  This reminds me to go make a donation appointment.