September 11, 2007

One Man's Stand


No response. I've jumped out of the car, am standing there barefoot in the intersection.

"Hey! Who built this?"

He appears to consider his silence.

"I did." His body does not move.

"What's it made of?"

"Cardboard, mostly."

Is this even happening?

"So you're gonna stand here all day?"

"Yeah. All day."

Am I losing it along with him? Has he really lost it?

"Alright, well, good luck!"


I get back in the car, and Mr. Millions and his lady get back in, and we go.

"What in the fuck was that?! What WAS that?"

This all happened last year, in Huntington Beach, California. We'd been at a wedding that weekend. On the trip to Long Beach Airport, we took a wrong turn while looking for something to eat. The man stood there in front of a church amid a quiet, idyll suburb abutting the shores of the Pacific. When the car stopped, I felt as if we'd dropped into another dimension of strange and found him there with his monument.

I remembered him this morning while thinking that this was my first 9/11 outside of New York, and how did that feel? Where was the uncanny stillness of silent subways and too-clear skies, the repeated crispness of September? Then his face and voice returned to me and I thought about last year, and how, each year, this day gets more and more twisted, warped under the weight of all that came of it, and all that did not, and the difficulty that lies in tracing its consequences.

Against that weight, this man made his odd, vivid tribute. I hope it gave him some comfort. I wonder if he's standing in front of that church again this morning.