Friday, June 6, 2014

My class was reading Catcher in the Rye, the iconic teenage text that I remember not liking in high school. One of the students said he wanted to read it. He only made eye contact when he talked about this book, so I ordered it. And we were totally into it. I loved how it was all about being a stranger to yourself, about the weird unmapped spaces in between things.
     “He was a very good skater and all, but I couldn’t enjoy it much because I kept picturing him practicing to be a guy that roller skates on the stage.”
I read this--I read an encyclopedia of terrorism. Other people’s ideas occupy me, set up camp for awhile, move on, leaving behind--graffiti. And other things.
Lost in hundreds of pages of events I vaguely remember, growing up oblivious, my parents gnashing their teeth over the news, distant padding for the immediacy of child life. Even September 11--my one and only adult moment when I can look back and say, I remember exactly where I was. I was walking out the door to teach a class in Ann Arbor and the phone rang, a phone plugged into the wall. My friend Shelby in New Orleans said, “The world is ending.” I didn’t get it then, but I can still see the tree branches out the window and the edge of the coffee table.
   Suddenly it all comes into unbearable focus. But I can’t stop reading. It’s my job. I tumble into the beauty of the assassinated. Bashir Gemayel, Daniel Pearl--how could they be gone, these men who look so powerful, even with a gun to the head? It short-circuits my imagining. Just like that, the point is made. That there is good and evil. Real and fake. The essence of absolute truth.

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