Tuesday, September 11, 2012


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 cool.

“… stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.”

Damn bathroom, 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 a Tuesday.

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 fuzzy.

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 table.

“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.

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