My mother had decided to repaint the bathroom in navy blue, unintentionally intensifying the claustrophobic feel as if the windowless room wasn’t tight and dark enough. The blue walls matched the American flag shower curtain so the color choice made sense in that regard. Some visitor upon leaving our bathroom had once commented, “I like the bathroom. It’s very…um… patriotic.”
I hummed “Yankee
Doodle” subconsciously as I brushed my teeth, being careful around the
braces. I was fifteen and pimply, with
my carefully shellacked hair and Tommy Hilfiger shirt. I wasn’t exactly popular but I wasn’t unpopular
either. I was likable, if not truly
“… stuck a feather
in his cap and called it macaroni.”
filling my head with silly songs of nationalism.
My little sister
Renee came into the bathroom and I yelled at her to leave. I was only brushing my teeth and the door
wasn’t shut or anything, but I still wanted her to leave me alone. She wouldn’t, of course, so I think I might
have pushed her. I can’t remember. I do remember shouting, “I’m going to kill
you!” I went back to my toothbrushing.
I hated getting
ready for school. The district I lived in
was a little unorthodox, with the school week running from Tuesday to
Friday. We had three-day weekends, but
paid for them with longer school days.
So the dreaded Monday for me was actually Tuesday. I hated Tuesdays and that day was definitely
Minty foam was
dripping out the corner of my mouth when I heard my stepdad exclaim, “Oh my
gosh!” in complete surprise.
He liked to watch
the news while he was getting ready. He
had a little box of a television in the room he and my mom shared. The door to the bathroom and the door to
their room were at a perfect right angle in the hallway. All I had to do was lean my head out,
toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, and I could see the TV too. It sat on a rolling cart in the corner near
their closet. The image was a little
That’s when I saw
the news footage of a plane crashing into a building. My knowledge of New York buildings was
limited. Even buildings as seemingly
important as the World Trade Center were unfamiliar to me. My stepdad was a history teacher though, and
as he stood there with his chili pepper tie half tied, gawking blankly as the
shot was replayed again and again, he understood what this meant: history was being made.
“You know what this
is, don’t you?”
“No,” I said. I spit into the sink and stood by him in the
room. We both stared at the screen. My mom was coming down the hall. My siblings were laughing at the kitchen
“This is a
terrorist attack. We’re probably going
to go to war.”
A second plane struck. The Twin Towers collapsed before my very eyes
on that small blurry screen.
Suddenly it wasn’t
just the bathroom that seemed small and cramped. The walls of the bedroom closed in on me, the
lights dimmed, I felt small and stupid and scared. Everything seemed painted in red, white and
blue. Red for the blood of innocent
people, the whites of their eyes growing wider as they screamed out in terror,
the blue of the smoke in the sky, billowing lazily upward as if nothing truly
shocking had happened. As if somebody
hadn’t said “I am going to kill you” and meant it.
It happened on a Tuesday.