She would dream she couldn't run but could walk five miles an hour. Then her chest would begin to pound, wake her up, and it would takes seconds that felt like many minutes for her to catch her breath.
In reality she couldn't run yet could walk a solid five miles an hour. The dreams shouldn't have upset Lianna so much. They were merely truth. Yet in dreams not being able to run seemed shameful. In life, never. She could go more miles, walk more hours than her friends who had taken up running after 9/11, in case they had to run to to the Hudson, steal a kayak, or any small boat to get to the Jersey shore.
Her friends all had knee or other joint problems now. Lianna could still out walk them. Do you run in case of possible death or walk to live?
Lianna didn't want to ask herself wild, pseudo-philosophical questions. Not while awake or in dreams. She had earned peace.
It hadn't come easily. Inner peace never did. To stop the dreams, she found herself drawn to vain superficial people who might not have next money for the bills, but always could charge designer bags, designer clothes, designer sunglasses. Lianna never bought designer bags on principle but spent enough money on luxe bags, and no good optician sold non-designer sunglass frames.
Most of her friends, bad knees, joint problems and all, seemed to have the same attitude. They could be prudent, but oh it was so much fun to be with people who lived for the moment. She had even drank past her limit more than a few times this summer.
Lianna had a rep as a former wild-child. She couldn't believe that so many years later people remembered: Lianna, the late teens to 30something. Her wild-child run had been long. She had never fallen to the gutter or had been caught in the tumult of the sewer.
She had been a careful wild-child, prudent really. Her instinct for self preservation was so strong it had gotten her out of many a situation another girl would have fallen captive too.
That was a life time ago. It felt as though her whole life had been a search for peace. She hadn't done EST, Life Spring, The Four Questions, any double A program, or anything not involving an expensive therapist and finally just meds.
Only after it felt as if her city and her life were going to fall apart had she been able to attain peace. It took so long after the attacks she had given up on believing that one day she would feel this emotion that was really nothing. No anxiety, no obsessing after Nine PM, no depression, no questioning her sanity.
Lianna felt selfish. She didn't want negativity in her life. She wanted no naysayers; no people who would come between her and this place tentatively called peace.
It was so much fun to go out and just laugh that she had devoted the summer to it.
She felt so goddamn selfish for feeling happy. It seemed like yesterday that women who had lived downtown were telling her that she hadn't suffered enough. Compared to them, she hadn't. Or she had, just differently. It wasn't a competition. No prizes were given out.
Shit she should have thought of The Post 9/11 Reality Show; or she who suffers more wins. Fox would have loved it. Points could have been given out for getting into shape the fastest; points taken away for turning to drugs, drink and mindless sex. Or maybe they would have been given points if they did that and still managed to move three times in the first four years.
Many women had moved to The Upper West Side, for its solid housing and solid neighborhood feeling. They all seemed to gravitate to Lianna. For awhile she felt as if something about her was the ground zero of toxic energy.
Lianna had found a strange hobby, one she didn't like to talk about, and through it rid herself of the women and the toxic fumes. Nothing obscene; nothing illegal, just not something that people who didn't do wanted to talk about. Ultimately the hobby drained her. It could be so intense.
Oh she so much preferred this summer of being with people she had been friends with since early adulthood. Friends she had grown distant from in the years since that day, but had found their way back together. Not that they had gone anywhere. They just hadn't been having fun. Life had been too burdensome. There were children to see through life's journeys made worse..., bills to be paid, endless work to be done.
They were still searching but were beginning to understand that problems could be, at least partially, solved through laughter.
Her mother had believed that laughter could cure cancer. Lianna wished she hadn't laughed at her mother when she would say such things, or make fun of her when she would give Bernie Siegel's Laughter is the best medicine to friends and relatives with cancer. She still thought it a bit over the top, but her mother hadn't died of cancer, a heart attack, stoke, even Parkinson's or something dementia caused. Just a tragic accident shortly after....
When people said that Lianna hadn't suffered enough, that clear blue sky day, she had resorted to asking if one of their parents had died within the month. She hadn't been the fun, easy person people enjoyed being around.
She had been needy. Living five miles upriver from the attack had disqualified her from the privilege of being comforted. Only family members, then people who lived nearby had earned that right. Private tragedies probably brought on by aftershock didn't count. Lianna no longer resented that. Not the actions by most individuals. It was the government she scorned.
She remembered an argument she had with a friend who lived in the West Village: I walked uptown the next day and you were all sitting in cafes laughing. You didn't care.
She tried explaining they had given blood, had been banned from volunteering, had bought all the supplies they could that were posted on hand written signs on most stores, had wanted to do more but there was nothing they could do. People with children were trying to comfort them. To explain that buildings were gone but the world went on. Yes people sat in outdoor cafes that day. They wanted to be together. They wanted the children to understand that by the mere fact of so many people surviving, the terrorists had lost. They didn't know the real truth. They improvised as they went along. She remembered that all as clearly as if it happened yesterday, yet it seems like one of her wake-up-choking-for-air-dreams.
There had been a strange beauty to that week. Strangers would talk to each other as though they were old friends. The only cars riding on the streets were police cars, many from other far away cities. She wanted to kiss the police for caring. Once she had thought of them as pigs. Now she was saddened by the way they went about the RNC in 04, but on the whole....
She and her friends went on a candlelight march to firehouses in the hood. One lost 13, another 11, another 12. They listened to crying firemen and tried to comfort them. They gave money as if they were Rockefellers. They went to Union Square to see the missing posters and the homages to the missing. They needed to cry and this was the only way. â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢â€¢
Something happened this past year. The pain disappeared. Sometimes she tried to dredge up the feelings and couldn't.
It was AFTER and she was so over it all. Over it all yet she would never deny the feelings, never forget how wounded she had felt.
She didn't want to talk about the incidents, either of them, the big one and the strictly personal, but she wanted to talk about how the big one had affected every single person she knew.
How this borough on a stone island had changed. Yet the entire country seemed to see it as a tool for the war, or the reason for the war. It had stopped being a terrorist attack, and become the unmentionable. Or a propaganda machine.
Lianna had never wanted this war. Nobody she knew did. That didn't change their knowledge that nothing had ever been the same since. Yet the only people ever interviewed were disgruntled family members. It was all about them and nothing about an Island changed too quickly.
Lianna didn't understand. Didn't people want to be prepared for the next one? Didn't they want to understand what it felt like?
More selfishly she wondered if would she have come to this place in her heart if it hadn't happened? Would it have taken another decade of searching?
A much older woman, a refugee from Europe had said to her shortly after:
You Americans have always been so innocent. Only now can you begin to understand the world.
Now that seemed melodramatic, but then it had seemed profound.
Her family used to tease her because she would play "Blitz" as a child and read everything she could on it. Finally she had lived through a mini-blitz of her own.
Lianna put on her Fendi, so old they were vintage, sunglasses, a wild orange and pink Betsey Johnson jacket and met one of her new vain superficial friends.
On their way to a new river cafe, they threw stones into the water watching them pound into waves. They talked about nothing and laughed all the while.