Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 -- The Dirty Bird of Days

Nobody knows what to do with this day. The usual rules don't apply. You go to the diner and Trixie isn't herself. She's muted her usual boisterousness, her usual lust for life. The past comes rushing in on us. However long ago it was -- perhaps we could look it up -- doesn't matter. The same somber tone, the same unwelcome sobriety descends upon us, one and all, and once again we're beside ourselves.

Once we were beside ourselves with terror -- utterly perplexed, finding devils in the smoke -- and now it's with reflection and a shaking fist, at the sky, at somebody, as we chant, "Never again!" I remember the first time I heard that familiar chant. We adults were stoic, standing stolid in complete silence. I remember my own stolid stance, the evil wind of that day moving my hair, that's it. I didn't know what to say, no adult did. The chant started then, wonderfully enough, with a little kid, maybe not more than four or eight, something like that. He or she raised his or her little fist, and with an angelic voice, as if from the clouds, he or she started in: "Never again! Never again!"

Other than that, does anyone really remember what they did? I don't. I remember my first day of kindergarten, my first Valentine, my first kiss on the playground, my first school lunch, my first (and second) Cub Scouts pins -- Fox and Bear, actually the only ones I ever earned, the day LBJ had his surgery, and the day I lost my virginity to myself. But that day, that terrible day, so long ago and yet as fresh as today to so many, is a weird blur, a distant nightmare that I mostly remember only because others remind me.

I know this much about it, though, the world hushes itself in its presence. Every lip is sealed, every voice struggles, every eye sheds a tear. There is no laughter. The decree goes forth, binding on one and all, "Let laughter subside!" Give it up, let it be, a pall falls, and that same dread we faced, and have pretty much repressed, returns to the fore, and what seemed so proper just yesterday -- Ha! Ha! Ha! -- is at once set aside, perhaps never to be heard again ... We just don't know. Can we make it? Will anything ever be the same? I don't think so...

This is now the dirty bird of days. You know the dirty bird. The dirty bird emits droppings on everything in its path. Straight below it, around the yard, around the block, then the town, and finally the world. Joy and happiness are far from its path. It may be the most joyous occasion of all, a picnic, a birthday celebration, the day of your first marriage. But when the dirty bird gets hold of it, it's nothing anymore, a waste, a void, something to be buried and forgotten. Your happiness that seemed permanent and set to endure, in the twinkling of an eye, is turned to despair.

Have you washed your hair? The dirty bird passes, or lands, and again it's a mess, as though it were never washed. Were you proud of your car, the sheen, the shine, the glint of the day's noonday sun beaming on it? Passing is the dirty bird, doing what the dirty bird does, and your car's just as crappy as ever. Or you have a brand new set of shingles on your house. You're showing it to your priest, but even he has to turn away -- he's who's heard every squalid confession there is -- as the dirty bird passes, emitting, dropping, and bombarding everything in its filthy path.

Let introspection reign, then, on this day of days, the day of the dirty bird. May each heart be gripped with moroseness, completely seized up and bound. As for me and my house, we're staying in today. And now ... to silence.

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