I spent precisely 73 minutes, curled up on the tile floor of the New York Library-Bronx Branch, crying yesterday. Book Propped In Front Of Me. Knees Folded. Pages Playing Tear Catchers.
I half expected a librarian to approach me, befuddled by my sinking the library with Titanic-like tears. Ok, maybe not Titanical Tears. But certainly rowboat tears.
“Excuse me, are you alright?” She would’ve asked. Clearly feeling awkward upon the sight of me.
“Oh, yes… Don’t worry,” I would’ve replied. “I do this all the time, no need to be alarmed. I always plant myself in the nonfiction section when I am having a bad day.”
I wish I were kidding but we all have quirky ways to remedy our bad days. I am just more open to admitting mine. Something about the nonfiction section of a library holds me at hard times. The Shelves Quake as I envelope myself in stories that are not my own. Stories that remind me the word “Alone” can disintegrate with two steps in nearly any direction. We are not alone. We are not the only ones having tough days. We are striving so hard to be Individuals that we lose track of Sameness. Sameness Matters. Oh yes, it does.
I cried for a silent waltz between Individuality and Sameness bound up together in a hardcover. 1,901 portraits.1,901 Individuals Who Lost their Lives in September 11, 2001.
Mothers. Husbands. Teachers. Students. Fathers. Brokers. Aunts. Business Men. Fiances. Waiters.
All Different Lives. One Common Ending.
A day when Two planes Took To the air. Took down Two Towers. Took Too many.
If our lives look more like a waiting room than a kaleidoscope today then we are doing something wrong. If we are hoping life will begin someday soon then we are wasting time. If we are allowing words inflated with Doubt, Negativity, Hatred and Defeat take the reins in our vocabulary then we need a new dictionary.
Because 2,996 lives never found tomorrow after September 11, 2001. Over 200,000 lives lost the chance for a better life when the Earth Quaked in Haiti this past year. More than 4,000 soldiers gave up any form of a future to fight a war in Iraq. Why? So that we could have the future. Planted in our Hands.
We need only stare at a cover of the New York Times to slap our own wrists with reality: We have been given a gift. Gifts are never required. Nor guaranteed.
A volume full of single stories, each one begging to burst from beneath their byline, reminds me of the great nobility of everyday existence. In riding the 4 Train to work daily, where Doug Jason Irgang met his future bride-to-be after seeing her daily on the commute to work, reading her paper. They were set to be married in December 2001. In the pots of rice and beans cooked by Jorge Velazquez every Saturday for the homeless and hungry of Manhattan. In the spaces between the breaths of Janet Alonso as she called her husband to tell him That The Office Was Filling With Smoke. That She Could Not Breathe. That She Loved Him.
And then the Buildings Broke.
I am reminded on an every day basis that it will never matter which titles we held or the amount of money that our bank accounts digested. The fibers of our existence are counted then accounted for in the hands that we hold. The well intentions we wish. The prayers we send Upward. The compassion we sent Outward. The love we welcome Inward.
I hold a thousand secrets and I cannot share them all. But here’s one. Lean in closer. Open your ears: The only promising promise exists in this very moment and what we make of it. Ready. Set. Go.