Writing prompt: In the late fall, I was studying
I wanted so badly to live far away, to flee my childhood home, to be free. The thought of being cool enough to call myself a New Yorker bolstered me up, supported me. I didn’t worry about being alone, or afraid, or unsure. I was too young to think too deeply about those things anyway. Nothing a little Mandarin Absolut couldn’t fix.
And, my parents were so proud when I was accepted. They even put a school sticker on the back window of their car. Were they really those parents? I was shocked. And then, I was proud that they were proud.
So I packed up my bags. And rolled up my childish wall posters of movie stars and rock bands, and headed east, to the city that never sleeps. What did I expect? Today, I can’t remember. But I do remember the beginnings, like it was yesterday. Every painful moment. Every awkward discovery. And finally, how my time there would change me forever, and define who I was, and how I saw the world.
In the late fall, I was studying to survive. It was hard, and I was just barely making it. My roommate was a tall, blond, supermodel type, from Connecticut. She had already been scouted by a modeling agency, when we were out drinking one night. She had the habit of wearing very plain, almost ugly clothing, in a way that looked fashionable, and classic. She wasn’t exceptionally clever, but she read, and postured like she was. And she was very well bred, it was clear. Her sometimes boyfriend looked like he was in his 30’s, he probably was. He was Irish, and rugged, as if he’d washed up on some salty seashore, wrapped up in an Aran sweater. He was also an oyster shucking champion. This is a fact. They had met when they both worked for a catering company.
There was something wonderfully illicit about their relationship. I knew it, and she knew it, and she loved to talk about it, or hint at the risk. Perhaps it was the age difference. I can only imagine how well he knew his way around her 18yr old body. It’s the exact kind of situation 18yr old girls love to imagine, especially 18yr old me. And here was my roommate, with her very own older, experienced man.
When I got to New York, it quickly dawned on me how young and inexperienced I actually was. To run away from the inevitability of my own inexperience, I studied. Alot. On nights when my roommate would dress up, and go out, I studied. Homework, again, on a Friday night. I know how it looked. But I had to go inward, before I could grow outward.
I wrote, I contemplated the city I was trying to call home. I wrote letters to my dad, that droned on and on. I wonder what he made of them. I watched the days pass, through sticky September, and into cooler October.
A few years passed. I was still studying. I had warmed up to the city, it felt like home. That morning, the news was blowing up, about a crazy airplane pilot who had actually flown his plane into the World Trade Center. We watched the television, in curiosity. Over the next few minutes, the story started coming together. Lots of confusion, lots of questions. Then, it was not an accident, it was an attack?
I rode the elevator, down to the street below, and walked across the street, to Union Square park. The street was eerily quiet. A man was listening to a hand held radio, and weeping. I searched the faces of the other people around me. The sky was a brilliant blue that morning, and beautiful. Suddenly the air filled with glitter, shimmering in the bright autumn sun. It was broken glass, I later realized, from the second tower, that had just been hit.