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2001-09-17 - 4:18 p.m.

I thought I wouldn’t be able to stop talking about it. I thought I would grow tired of talking about it. But neither happened. Every day last week, I read about what happened online, from salon and cnn and nytimes and msnbc. I read a lot of personal accounts as well, of people who had slept late or missed their train and narrowly missed being at the World Trade Center when it happened. And then I think of all the stories of people that we’re not hearing about. We’re not hearing those stories because there’s no one around to tell them, while their friends and family wait, and wait, and wait.

Every night when I got home, I turned on the news, and watched until I couldn’t watch anymore. And then I went out drinking. And smoked. And had lots of quiet conversations with close friends.

I can’t remember ever turning to alcohol for solace like I have this week. I didn’t drink excessively, and was only mildly hungover Friday and Saturday mornings. But I craved it. There was nothing else I wanted to be doing.

* * * * *

We talked and drank beer and smoked cigarettes for five hours at the Dog and Duck, a conversation that is hazy and blurred now. I remember he asked a lot of questions (usually my role), and I would talk for five, ten, fifteen minutes, and stop.

“I’m talking too much,” I would say.

“No you’re not. I’m asking you questions, aren’t I?”

Five hours passed quickly; I usually can’t sit still that long.

I could see him ticking off the mental checklist in his head, the one you have when you meet someone new, and you desperately accumulate details, trying to decide whether you like this person or not. Everyone does it, I think; I ask leading questions, determining whether you read, or go to movies, or listen to music, making sure you don't watch five hours of television every night, or spend every evening at a bar, playing darts. Here’s where I scored with him: morning person, ran a marathon, hardwood floors, drove a stick shift car.

The next night, he came over to my house; we were going to see the White Stripes, at Emo’s. He was quiet, and I had watched the news for too long that day, and my stomach hurt again, so we were both in somber moods. We sat on the glider on my front porch for a while and didn’t speak; the silence was broken only by the sounds of our hands slapping at mosquitoes. Later, it seemed strange to be at Emo’s, surrounded by all the hipsters. They seemed so oblivious, intent on their alternative lounging lifestyle. We stayed outside, on the fringe, away from people, making awkward conversation with near strangers. At one point, he grabbed my hand to look at my fingernails; I blushed, and avoided his gaze.

When we said goodbye, I thanked him for coming with me, and he apologized for being in a bad mood. I said I didn’t mind; it is a rare person that I can be quiet with. He hugged me, tight, and my hand gripped the back of his neck, and then he was gone.

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