Sunday, September 04, 2005

Gratitude: Part one of many

When faced with the question of what to write these days only one subject comes to mind. Yet I feel I've said as much as I know and pointed readers in the direction of people that know more, so aside from asking, "Why aren't we impeaching yet?" I'm tapped. But it's all I can think about for the most part, an undercurrent.

Rather than harping, I thought (as I tried in vain to sleep last night) that this is a good time for gratitude. Grateful for having clean underwear, the option to shower, friends and family, my home and a lot of other things too.

For this first post I'm grateful to ChemE. I don't have authorization to post pictures of her and I only have one and it's not very good so I'm using pictures of things and people she likes.

ChemE is an engineer. She's highly practical and cautious and intelligent. Whereas my fears and phobias are unreasonable and uncontrollable for the most part (I mean, really, we don't have a lot of rattlesnakes in Brooklyn, and I love the beach but fear drowning? What the hell?) she researches her phobias and controls them through information. When she makes a flight reservation she doesn't just ask for arrival time and layovers she asks what equipment is being flown and is not above asking for a maintenance history. Once, when she was waiting in a gate for a plane delayed by a maintenance issue, she stopped the pilot as he re-boarded to ask what had happened and how it had been addressed. And she fully understood his answer, too, due to all the research she's done.

Back when her job involved going to trade shows ChemE would take the weekend before, save the company money on her flight because she stayed over a Saturday night, and we'd play until she had to go deal with her show. In October of 2001 she was scheduled for an nearly week-long visit to New York for a trade show.

In the days (and weeks) following 9/11 a lot of people (probably even ChemE) assured me that if (when, they were sure) I wanted to get away ("come home") I was welcome and they would do anything they could to help me do it. Surprisingly without losing my temper I was able to explain to all of them that I was staying put. I don't think I even once said to the offerer, "I am home for Christ's sake! Someone flew a plane into home and fucked it all up! And I'm afraid that if I leave they might not let me come back. I'm staying right the hell here with the funny smell and the one TV channel and my dog, thankyouverymuch."

I assumed that ChemE wouldn't come down for her trade show. Even if the show was held I figured she'd want to postpone indefinitely. I mean, people had blown up in a plane, she has plane fears, it seemed logical. And that was OK with me, I understood, and didn't want her to come down and be scared and hate it all week. That may not have come across in my jittery, defensive conversations from that period but I hope that it did.

She said she'd think about it but she never once mentioned not coming. And she didn't cancel or even shorten her plans. She came to New York, by plane, and we ate at a fancy restaurant and I think we probably went to something on Broadway and we lay on her hotel bed and she singlehandedly boosted the New York City economy, as she likes to do when she's here ("I can't get this where I live!").

Now, I appreciated it at the time. I was so glad to see her and the vote of confidence from someone outside of my New York life coming to visit was invaluable. Any approximation of normalcy was the best present I could have gotten and she gave me days of it. I mean, nothing was normal, we were rebuilding what we were to call normal, but she made a concerted effort to give me what passed for it. However, it was a few months before I truly appreciated that it had been given to me.

I can't remember where I read it, might have been Tomato Nation but it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that Sars usually writes about. Whoever it was talked about how their best friend was scheduled to visit them in New York City in the months following 9/11 and had declined. More than that the friend said something akin to, "Oh god no, I'm not coming there, it's like Sodom and Gommorrah but scarier and no doubt I'll be flayed and eaten upon entry!"

I finished reading the story and I cried. I mean, what sort of friend does that? I'd understand not being able to come to New York. I know plenty of people who are wary enough of it in the high times much less when its foundation of landfill is still burning so I wouldn't fault anyone for deciding not to come. But the correct way to cancel the trip to the ravaged home of a friend is, "I'm so sorry, I just don't think I can do it. I'm too nervous." To take it on yourself, not to enumerate the suspected evils of your friend's violated home town. And my friend? Didn't do any of that. She acknolwedged that things were scary and she declined to leave me alone while they were.

And for that I am truly grateful.

1 comment:

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