Several years ago on a Monday in September, things were not going well between Evangeline and I. That Thursday night I was going to take a trip out to Gilead and visit my friend Clint who was attending Southern Cross University out there. Mostly, though, I found that time away from Colosse and Evangeline was less miserable than time with her in the city.
Before that happened, though, I wanted to try to smooth things over at least a little bit so that I wouldn’t spend the whole trip worrying if there was anything to even go back to. So against my better judgment I bought her flowers. I say “against my better judgment” because at that point every time I had gotten her flowers up to that point there had been some sort of disaster in our relationship. Not even because of the flowers, really. Just bad timing. Over and over again.
So at about 2am that night, I decided to go on a secret mission and deliver some flowers and left them on her car. I figured that was Tuesday, maybe we’d have a talk that night. We’d talk again on Wednesday, and then Thursday I would leave before something else could go wrong and ruin my trip. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should have waited another day for the flowers. Three days was way too long for something not to erupt at that time.
I stayed up for a few more hours when I got back and it was 6am when I went to sleep. My reasoning was that there was a 30/70 chance that she would dodge getting online so that she didn’t feel obligated to repay my spontaneous (okay, not exactly spontaneous) generosity with having to, you know, talk to me. She’d acknowledge the flowers and thank me in any event, and she’d probably do so in more than just a two-line email or something like that, but I didn’t want to spend the whole day worrying about the alternative and I couldn’t be worrying if I was asleep and if I didn’t wake up until 3 then I could get online and she could thank me without the awkwardness of any further communication unless she felt so inclined.
I hadn’t been asleep for maybe a couple hours when I got a call.
“Are you watching television?!” She said
“Are you watching television?”
“I was asleep, actually. Wait… huh? What’s on television?”
“Turn on your television right now. Some terrorists have flown planes into the World Trade Center,” She explained. “Oh, and thanks for the flowers.”
After we got off the phone, I was in the living room watching television when my roommate Karl got home from work. “Have you seen the news?” I said almost immediately. Sue me, I wanted to be the first one to tell somebody. I was a little bit worried about his reaction, though. Karl was one of those people that was already smart but for some reason felt the need to augment the perception of his smarts by having opinions different from everybody else and so if everyone else was upset about such an attack he was the sort of person that would find humor in it or say that we deserved it or something like that. That was my fear, anyway.
I think that the news stunned him so much that he didn’t even have time to strategize how he could use this to prove that he was smarter than everyone else. As he and I watched along with our friend John (”Fuzzles”) Fustle, he was actually the most pissed off. Fuzzles was angrily talking about how our warmongering president was going to use this to blow up foreigners and I was too stunned to be angry. Stunned may not even be the right word. The tragedy hadn’t set in yet. At that point it was all so… interesting. Just very, very interesting.
I talked to Eva again that afternoon. Her employer was giving everyone the day off. I was excited because it might mean that we got to spend some time together. She dodged and weaved saying that she felt like she needed to be with her family until she was contacted by an ex-boyfriend pulling a Dan Merchand and decided to spend the afternoon consoling with him. Upon finding that out and that classes at Southern Tech were cancelled until further notice, I said “screw it” and left for Gilead a couple days early.
I heard two unbelievable ads on the radio as I drove. The first said something to the effect of “Fly plane into wall! Stoopid! Getting rates from many auto insurance companies! Smart!” Then there was another that said… “In times of war… you need CABLE!” (it was an ad for Band of Brothers, a then-new HBO miniseries). I have to think that both ads were recorded and set to play before the attacks. Notably, I never heard the ads after that day.
If there’s any way to avoid current events, it’s by visiting Clint. The guy is about as apolitical as anyone can be. About the only thing I remember about that visit that pertained to the attacks was a really dirty joke by his then-roommate about the 9/11 victims and necrophilia and I can’t even remember the joke (or if it was at all funny then or now).
A couple months later, Eva was gone for good. A couple days after that, she and the Merchand guy were officially an item. At the end of my trip that week, it all finally hit me on the drive home. Not having known anybody in the attack (once I knew that my brother wasn’t), I had to create fictional people that were in the WTC to be able to relate to it and to understand it. But it eventually happened.