July 20, 1969. We’re huddled around a small black and white t.v., waiting for that first step onto the lunar surface. For these moments, the whole family, together. Silent. I want to sleep. I need to stay awake for this impossible thing, this man who will stand on the moon, this dream of a generation.
I am a child. My parents are young. We age, later, in 1963. We age again, in 1968.
The boy with the shaved head and the name of an astronaut keeps to himself. He lives down the street. He passes by. He etches craters onto his scalp like a model of the moon: Sea of Tranquility, Sea of Storms.
Neighbors have been milling around for hours, in and out of their homes, restless and talkative. The boy with the shaved head is with them. He stands still. He looks up.
The next day, it’s business as usual. Fathers depart following a perfunctory kiss, headed for offices and mistresses. Mothers wash in their Whirlpools and cook on their olive stove tops, preparing for the evening’s cocktails and barbecues.
Troubles are brewing, but everyone pretends otherwise. Students are sitting for peace. Teenagers are running away from home, to chant for love, to make love, to give away love. Friends, as young as myself, speak of pills and pot and purple dreams.
He is on the road, flying again. As usual. I’m accustomed to it, though I don’t like it. I’m working in the home office. The boys are in school. A friend’s email interrupts at an unexpected hour, a little after 9 a.m. – turn on the TV – now it says.
I flip on the television to see the blaze of the first tower, and then the second. I spend interminable hours trying to reach family in New York, stunned in front of replays that none of us can stop watching. For days. For weeks. I leave messages for the husband who is always gone when we need him, the husband flying somewhere, in or out of one of the cities that was hit.
I feel fear. A nauseating, liquid, diseased sort of horror. Late afternoon, finally, my husband calls. He is annoyed at my messages, dismisses my concern. His plane was not that plane, but he’s stuck at the airport and irritated. He is calling customers, canceling meetings, attending to business.
There is no way home. The air outside is heavy. And soundless.
Strange silence for a busy neighborhood in central Paris. Yet the street remains remarkably still much of the day, even as first light brings the bustle of merchants loading and unloading their wares. Then moving on.
Occasionally, there are voices: babies crying, lovers arguing, the concierge giving a tradesman a piece of her mind.
The neighbor’s cat scratches on the window. I let him in.
This is my week, my long awaited getaway. Midsummer sun and warmth, a borrowed apartment with its narrow balcony. This place to sit, to write.
I am waiting, and not waiting. For something. For everything. I am certain it will come, though I do not know its name or its shape.