from CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
The most immediate glamour of New York City is certainly vertical—that happy and gleaming and aggressive concrete and glass phenomenon. The statue out in the harbor seemed smaller than I had expected, further away, but she was still there. Lower Manhattan formed a towering semi-circle of glowing glass around and above us. Walking down Broadway, as my route took me to work, even relatively low buildings formed that canyon—a deep gorge cut into the concrete evidence of this our great capitalism. Trinity Church launched into the sky unafraid, sharp and mean. And beyond the church, beyond the Broadway gorge, stood the stark, bright, vertical sprawl of the World Trade Center towers. Each of the two buildings filled with legends and haunts and even new energies, and though I knew none of them, I felt them inside. It wasn’t yet a relationship, perhaps, but it was a familiarity, and a comfortable, welcome one, and it was exactly what I wanted.
And that’s what I was thinking, sitting on that bench, feeling and seeing those objects of strength all around me, those great architectural dreams like elevators to God and money.
I don’t remember when the visions started, when I started imagining them falling—and at first I giggled at the truth I thought was behind them—a blind guy trying to blow up the once tallest buildings in America. My memory images of that event are of weeping female office workers gagging through handkerchiefs, and the shady robed ringleader in court—we saw the Gotham tabloid headlines on the local television news upstate. It was a laughable attempt on mighty America, but it did thrust my imagination toward very bad things.
Now there, seeing them, I imagined something deadly and sharp, something hacking at the towers from just above the foundation, and both buildings then toppling like thin, once sturdy trees into the underbrush below. First they came down south. Maybe while I sat there that day, eating my lunch, considering my new place in the world, maybe some time vaguely “later,” I saw them possibly reaching the park, spreading a shaking rumble for blocks upon impact, scattering debris like torn leaves and dirt on the faces of stunned onlookers.
Imagining the geometry of triangles, I tracked them down—if they fell east, it would be onto Wall Street, north into Tribeca, bringing down studios, art lofts, men in black, women in heels and sunglasses and scarves. Sometimes, just for the splash, I’d crash them into the Hudson River.
Can you imagine those things coming down like that? Barely like trees—more like telephone poles, perfectly straight and true, the sky blackening over us, the shadow quickly growing, like a fresh blood spill, to encompass everything in sight, and then a thunderous stomp.
And then a silence.
What was it that brought my imagination to that horror, benign as it was, lacking in blood and death and stink? How did I get there? First I saw myself as an integral and necessary part of the reality of historic and forever Manhattan and then I was destroying people like ants under the weight of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world. Was this my humanity? My shared humanity? Or was it an anomaly in me, a sociopathic flaw? Or fear?
Of course, it was none of that.
Was I fucking kidding? It had nothing to do with reality—towers don’t fall like that—towers don’t fall at all—it was just their striking and lopsided height that, to my eyes and to my brain, all untrained in even simple physics, made them seem unstable, like objects as fleeting as a tower of baby blocks on the floor or a straw standing on your fingertip. Those things fall because they’re supposed to fall, but skyscrapers don’t fall like that—I was being stupid. And since it wasn’t a real threat, it became a daydream, a fantasy, a musing, a meaningless photograph in the mind repeated so often that its very repetition becomes the familiar stuff we need to find comfort in the kind of chaos that won’t fit in a frame.
But it wouldn’t go away. It didn’t take long to run through all the terrible possibilities, and even though my twisted curiosity had been satisfied, I couldn’t keep the image from coming back. And then came all the guilt, fear, sadness and rage about what happened later, and nothing in my head worked the same anymore. After being harassed by my own daydreams for so many years, all I wanted was for them to come back.
This is the eighth in the series of excerpts from my new novel, currently being shopped to agents, called "The Light That We Can See." The series can be found here.
Check my column or follow my Twitter page for regular updates, and very soon I'll be releasing CHAPTER ONE for download, as well as a new ebook collection of brutally honest essays about sports & politics, titled "It's Not Just a Ballgame Anymore."
So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.