Most of the tragedies that have occurred in our modern history have found me in bed with some guy. So why should 9/11 be aydifferent?

On September 10, 2001 I got an instant message from a guy I was seeing. His name was David. Now to say I was “seeing” him might be a bit of a stretch — I guess he was what you would call today a “friend with benefits”. Our benefitted friendship had been going on for some time at this point, and I was starting to grow a bit tired of it. It was a very sporadic relationship; there were periods where we would talk every day and see each other weekly, followed by absences that sometimes went on for months when I would not hear from him. I can’t say that during our “down time” I spent a lot of time languishing and being sad when he wasn’t around. I kept myself…ummm…busy. But when he would turn up, I never turned him away. I knew he was divorced and that his divorce occurred in part because his wife cheated on him with a friend of his. So he was understandably distant and emotionally unavailable in a lot of respects. Of course I understand all this now, ten years later. At that time he was just the guy I really liked who continued to be elusive and non-commital…a guy I knew I would have eventually because I’d never NOT gotten a man I wanted. But I would admit I was starting to grow tired of the game, and a part of me just wanted to say to him “look, I really like you and this little back and forth homey/lover/friend thing is not what I want”.

David wanted to see me that night. He was off from work he said, and wanted to know if we could get together. My kids were with my mom and I had planned to go out, but hadn’t quite decided where. David lived in Riverdale at that time (not far from New Carrollton in PG County), and my car was in the shop. I told him I wasn’t going to be able to make it unless he came to Baltimore to pick me up, and he’d have to bring me back in the morning. In a way I thought this would discourage him f rom wanting to see me because it was a 30-40 minute drive. I wanted to see him but at the same time I wasn’t sure how long I could continue down this road liking this man who didn’t seem to really want to be with me. Since I couldn’t seem to manage a “no” on my own accord, I thought creating a transportation issue would work.

We discussed the transportation issue a bit; he said he’d just gotten off work and ddn’t really feel like making the drive up — exactly what I was counting on. What I was NOT counting on was that he would offer an alternative. He suggested that I take the train down to New Carrollton and that he’d pick me up from the train station, and that he could take me back home in the morning. He offered to reimburse me for the train ticket when I got there. By this time I was feeling weak and a bit horny from listening to his voice and thinking of times past we’d spent SOOOO pleasantly together, so I agreed. Twenty minutes later I was at Penn Station, and forty minutes after that I was getting off the train in New Carrollton.

When he picked me up he asked me if I wanted to go anywhere, get something to eat, get drinks, go to a movie, etc. I didn’t want to do anything but go to his house. The train ride down had worked me up quite a bit sexually (something about modes of transportation have always turned me on…trains, planes, buses, etc.), and I really didn’t need all the preamble.  So we went straight back to his place.

The night was very different for some reason. He lit candles in his bedroom; something he had never done before. They smelled wonderful, but at the same time made me leery of his intentions. And even once we got started the sex was different. It was…slower. A lot slower. More deliberate and intentional. Everything about it was drawn out…the foreplay, the act itself, the afterplay. And I could see shadows of us flickering in the candlelight against the wall. It was all kind of surreal, and very unlike him. By the time he spooned me (another unheard of event for us) and kissed myh shoulder and we began to drift off to sleep, I was very satisfied, and rather confused.

He woke me up in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. The candles were still flickering, albeit much more dimly. My brain still clogged with sleep, I was not fully awake before I felt him touch me again, and he repeated the actions of the night before. And Idrifted off to sleep again with him at my side. I was very much aware of his flesh against mine, his muscles, his limbs.

I woke up at 8:25, and quickly decided to call out sick. He was already up and in the living room. I searched for my phone, found it in my purse, and, in my best fake coughing raspy voice called my boss to let her know I wasn’t coming in. Satisfied, I laid back down in bed to enjoy a bit of afterglow, and turned on the television. I was thinking that I really needed to talk to David about us, about where we stood. I knew how much men hated that “where is this thing going” speech, but at this point it was necessary. I realized this was the first time I’d ever spent the entire night at David’s house; the first time I hadn’t adhered to the “FWB” rules and left in the middle of the night, driving myself home in the wee hours, crawling into my own bed at home still some hours before the sun came up. In fact, I had never seen his home during daylight hours. As these thoughts crossed my mind, he came back into the room, towel wrapped around his midsection, but still naked underneath. He blew out the candles and sat down on the bed and smiled at me. I mentioned to him that today was my son’s 7th birthday, and that I planned to pick him up a cake and some ice cream on my way home. My son never liked big birthday parties, he always just wanted cake and ice cream with the family. David smiled and offered to take me by a bakery on my way home. He was asking me about breakfast (another first!) and I glanced at the television just in time to see a tall building engulfed in flames and smoke.

I remember wondering what third world country had erupted into war. The television was on mute, and I stared at the image…a skyscraper aflame next to an idential skyscraper. Something about the picture pulled at my memory. The television was on mute, and David picked up the remote to turn on the sound. And then we heard the newscaster say that an airplane had been flown into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. There were suspicions that it was a terrorist attack, but no one was sure. Information was sketchy, and the news showed people jumping and falling out of the burning building. And as if that weren’t bad enough, I watched the second airplane crash into the other tower before my very eyes.

Then there was an announcement that something had happened at The Pentagon. David had left the room at that announcement, and returned, fully dressed. Then I remembered. David was a D.C. police officer. He had to go. Our morning was over.

I don’t remember getting dressed. I don’t remember the ride back to the train station. I remember him saying he wouldn’t be able to take me home and he was sorry. I remember being afraid, confused. I remember being scared for him, scared for myself, and all the family and loved ones I had in the NYC area and the DC area.  I remember wondering what would happen to him, what things he would be faced with today. I wondered if I would ever see him again.

I do remember him saying he’d contact me as soon as he could, and to call him and let him know I’d gotten home safely, and to leave a message if I didn’t get him. He pressed a $20 bill in my hand, presumably for the train ticket I’d bought. I nodded, smiled at him and said “be safe”. He said “of course.” Igot out of his truck and he drove away.

I walked into the New Carrollton train station, clutching my train ticket home.  The station was a madhouse. No one knew what was going on. By this time everyone knew about the Pentagon attack. To make matters worse, all train service out of DC was suspended indefinitely. I tried to call home, my friends, my job, anyone, but phone lines were jammed. I sat in the train station, alone, trying not to cry, looking at the people who were crying, not knowing what was going on, panicked and scared. I couldn’t reach anyone to pick me up. All I could do was wait. And wait.

By early afternoon they ran a train out of DC to Baltimore. I got on it. It was packed. I discovered on the train ride home thatBaltimore had pretty much shut down after the attack, especially downtown Baltimore. I had planned to go downtown to Lexington Market to get my son’s cake, which I had remembered somehow, but was told it was closed. So I got off the train at West Baltimore and walked to my friend Michael’s house. He was home. I was able to watch the news there, and he told me everything that had happened all day — that it was a terrorist attack, that there had been a plane headed for the Capital building to crash into it, but once the passengers got wind of the attacks through phone calls from friends they fought off the terrorists on their plane, causing it to crash into a field in Pennsylvania. The Pentagon had been damaged. Thousands were missing in New York.  The country was literally under attack.

I cried at Michael’s house, then called my house. I managed to get through this time. My mom had arranged to have my kids picked up from school, and they were with her. My son was upset because it was his birthday and was particularly distraught when I couldn’t be reached. I got a us home that didn’t drive through downtown, and when I arrived home, my son cried because I had no cake for him. I spent the rest of the day consoling him and watching CNN.

Eventually I did write a short story called “The September 11th Story” about my experience. It made it into my very first book, “Lipstick and Other Stories”.  In the days that followed, when I didn’t hear from David I did worry a bit. Though there were extended periods of time when I didn’t hear from him, this time I wondered if he was okay. How would I find out if he wasn’t.

A couple of weeks later he turned up. He was fine.