I remember getting in the shower first thing upon awakening. I was living in the upstairs room at the time, now I live in the downstairs. In the shower I was thinking about Jack Kerouac. About how much I wished Kerouac was still alive, about what a beautiful creature I thought he was. The previous evening I'd been listening to an mp3 of him being interviewed--I remember dwelling particularly upon one of the questions he was asked, "Do you think there'll be any more war?"
Kerouac replied that no, there would not be, because the devil had been defeated by God.
While it's true that after this interview, the U.S. alone proceeded to become involved in a number of wars, not to mention what has been occurring elsewhere in the world . . . I nonetheless couldn't help thinking, "Wow. Wouldn't it be weird if he was right? What if there were just no more wars from now on?"
But of course, getting out of the shower and coming downstairs, I was immediately informed by my grandmother that America was under attack.
I was rattled. I didn't know quite what to think of it right away. I suppose the key sensations I was feeling were a sudden loss of safety, and a sort of bitterness.
A lot of me was saying, "Fools. Did we think we could just sprawl out, all comfortable in our freedoms, flaunting great symbols of our vulnerability," which was what the twin towers became for me in that instant, "and not get fucked?"
I left the house. I went straight to the mall of course.
But then, and there afterwards, I had a fundamental sensation of fragility. Looking around me, any building seemed like it could be bombed at any moment. At any moment, it seemed that my city could be gone. That any city could be gone.
I was dwelling on concepts of mass fragility, of the great lie inherent in all the presumptions we've ever made. I had already been dealing with these themes in my novel--to a large extent, that's what my novel's about; the inability to feel safe. But now it was really brought home to me in a new way . . . I think my motivations to write about that subject matter had come about from being kicked out of my mum's house, and essentially coming around to the feeling that I had no home. No stable place, not really, in spite of the fact that my heart continually, automatically set itself into other sleeves, whether I liked it or not--whether this was my grandmother's, Ocean Beach, or the mall.
I got to the mall when it was still early--it could not have been later than 9:30, because most of the stores hadn't opened yet.
Starbucks was open of course, so buying a grande latte, I sat down to read The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs.
Even though what Burroughs talked about was mostly either corruption in our government, or his own private, strange meditations on vileness . . . I received a peculiar sort of comfort to have Burroughs's voice with me. At the time, his words seemed very conciliatory. Here was a voice that like a ray of bladed light, cut through the shadows of sentimentality. Not to invalidate my own feelings, but I think I needed to put myself outside of the emotions a bit. I had this strange little fantasy of Burroughs's ghost walking beside me in the mall . . .
The day needed William S. Burroughs I think. In ways bigger than he could have been had he been alive--someone needed to cut down the fluff bullshit of the American media and its compulsive pickings at the wound even as it was being torn. We could certainly use him to-day
Of course, by ten o'clock, it was decided that the mall was not going to open, so I left. I went to my mum's house, where I watched most of the thing, thankfully, on the BBC, which, instead of wallowing in the footage continually, actually had things like discussion groups featuring scholars and world leaders talking about the impact the event was to have on the world, and so forth.
In the end, the defining moment of September 11, for me, came almost a week later when I saw Tori Amos performing Tom Waits's Time on David Letterman. It seemed a very gentle and perfect point that was unfortunately largely ignored--That this was a time to love. That this was a time to lay down your silly bullshit. It's time that you loved.
I think was just a little too simple for the U.S. though . . .