Tuesday, September 12, 2006

monday morning

I was shocked awake by the sound of the sky cracking open. The initial shriek of sound snapped me awake, and I was conscious in a second or two, eyes popping open, brain screaming on, fingers clutching the sheets. Slid open the screen by the futon and the shriek faded into lower grumblings that tumbled across the whole sky, and the city felt tiny beneath it. It had come from the south. Across the river. Tokyo. That didn’t sound like any thunder I’ve heard. And the sky is glowing, deep color, like a ripe peach, not a cloud to be seen.

They say that the day that Little Boy atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, drops of thick inky liquid fell from the sky, raincoats dripping in streams of black rain. They say that when the Aum Shinrikyo cult gassed three subway cars with sarin that it took the EMS hours just to sort everyone out. They say that after Tokyo burned to the ground in the Great Earthquake of 1923 that gangs roamed the wreckage, lynching Chinese, Koreans and any foreigners they could lay their hands on.

I am not generally a paranoid person, but on that morning every one of my senses was screaming that something was very wrong as my brain tried to calm itself down. My brain decided to check what time it was, and when I flipped open my cell, there was the date right beside the “5:31 AM”: September 11, 2006. Fuck. I thought about flipping on the news, but my apartment doesn’t have a TV, a radio, it isn’t connected to the internet. I decided to stand up. I put on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. I looked out into the streets again. A man with an umbrella and a grey suit was calmly walking towards the train station. I went to the fridge and drank some juice out of the carton. Pineapple juice. Why did I have pineapple juice? I never buy pineapple juice. And what had that noise been? The sky was bright, I didn’t even see rain. A North Korean warhead? An Al Qaeda attack, coordinated all over the world, metropolis’ crumbling? Like I said, I don’t usually think like this.

What if Tokyo was gone, what if it had been bombed? Would the news come at all? Would all the channels go blank? Last month a construction crane collided with some powerlines, and central Tokyo blacked out for three hours at the peak of rush hour, thousands of people trapped beneath the city in dead subway cars. Would friends of mine be able to get out of here? Would I be able to get out of here? Would the airports be jammed? Osaka too? Maybe I could go up to the north coast and find a ship to Russia

I was standing in front of my kitchen sink with the carton of pineapple juice in my hand when the second explosion hit. I rushed back to the window and searched the sky, which was still beautiful, clear and orange. Was that the sound of thunder? Could thunder sound like that? So sharp, so loud? It sounded like it came from far to the south, but it felt like I’d been jabbed in the chest. Should I call someone? Would they be awake too? Could they have slept through that? Were they injured? I looked out the sky and suddenly felt how tiny I was in this city, how tiny I was without the trains, without the flights home, without the phone, without the power of the city gushing to push me through it. I looked out at the city and wondered if it was dead, if the law had cracked open, who I could trust with my life. The closest I had ever come to feeling like this was five years ago, when I sat alone in my living room in Oberlin, Ohio, listening to NPR, Karl Castle’s voice shaking as he said: “We don’t know what has happened. A plane has flown into the World Trade Center. We don’t know what has happened.” The morning when you didn’t understand a thing, even from a one story house in Ohio.

As you know, Tokyo wasn’t bombed. I almost didn’t write this. It was too stupid, too neat, too perfect, too trite. Waking up to the sound of bombs on the fifth anniversary of September 11. But it happened, and it scared me shitless. I was standing on the balcony in my boxers with the carton of juice and that beautiful peach sky with my brain doubling back on itself, wondering if I was crazy and imagining things, if I should panic or if I should worry about the people I knew who lived across the river or if I should start packing bags and storing water when: the sky cracked again. The sound was a bit softer, and as I listened closely to a sound that was just thunder. There was a light hiss coming from the pavement, and as I stretched my hand out I could feel rain, a very light rain falling. Falling from that stupidly beautiful sky, and there were people walking in the streets, walking to work.


rachel said...

sounds terrifying...great post. I'm glad Tokyo and you are still there.

Ester said...

a lot of times, those things that seem too stupid to write are the best posts, really. There's something raw in that which we all can relate to, an emotion that everyone across the globe can understand. Your writing is really captivating and I'm glad you wrote it.

Zoe and Craig said...

where did the pineapple juice come from?

Jamie said...

oh, I bought the pineapple juice, felt like buying something sweeter than grapefruit juice, but suddenly I'm up at 5:30 in the morning, rifling about in my fridge for something to drink, took a sip from the carton and then WHOA! this ain't grapefruit juice.

Huh. Not such an interesting story, really.