Last night, I did something my Mother would have begged me not to. I went out with my husband to the AMC theater in Methuen and I watched the new Batman movie. I grew up just about 20 miles west of New York City. On September 11th, 2001, I was close enough to the devastation to see the smoke plumes from a ridge in my town. Everything changed that day, which seems like a trite thing to say, but true none the less. I had spent my entire childhood going into New York City at least once a month. The events of that day changed everything my family felt towards the City. The illusion of safety, the comfort of familiar street corners, the life all around you. All replaced, all years from being restored. Going into the city for the next year, was an act of defiance. My father would check the threat levels before allowing me to get onto a bus for an afternoon in Central Park with friends - something he would have never bothered doing before that day.
It’s amazing how moments like this can suddenly wake up that fear inside of us. That instinct of self-preservation. It lies dormant in between instanced of panic and destruction. But if we can be so bold and brave in between, why not continue straight through the uncertainty? So we went to the movies, as we had planned a week earlier. I hadn’t been afraid before the movie began, but knowing what had happened in Colorado painted the film in a new layer that hovered over the entire experience. Only the people inside of that theater will ever know what it was really like to be there, but the closest any of the rest of us can come is by going out and watching that movie. The 2 hours and 44 minutes is filled with sequences in which unsuspecting groups of citizens are fired upon. It’s an incredibly imagined world of fiction that should never become reality. But, it does. It did.
Yesterday afternoon, before going to the movies, I was out at Singing Beach with friends. The topic of the shooting inevitably came up and everyone threw in some sort of personal reflection or factoid. Piecing together our own, albeit distant, collective experience of the tragedy. One of the men out with us asked a very interesting question when the conversation had ended. “Why does everyone always feel the need to comment on these things? Everyone writes a message on their blog or on Facebook. Obama and Romney both made speeches about it. And we’re sitting around talking about it too. I don’t know. It seems unnecessary - none of it makes a difference.” So why are we compelled to talk about tragedies when they happen? It has monopolized posts here on The Compass since Friday. Every social interaction I’ve had for the past 3 days has had some mention of it. I can’t be sure, but I think it’s one of those beautiful, shared acts that makes us human. We want to talk with one another about it because we long to understand; the act itself and one another. We weave together our individual experiences and thoughts into a quilt of humanity and then we cover ourselves with it, as security against those who would harm us. Those who have no interest in understanding.
So last night I came home from the theater. The movie was excellent but my excitement was still dotted with a somber afterglow. As artists, I’m sure you all would find a familiar comfort in meeting destruction with creation. So I thought about some of the projects I had once been excited about (alas, I spread myself far too thin in the project world) and decided to divert some energy into something positive. About a year ago, I became aware of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRECord project. It’s an online collaborative community that works together to generate shared media that everyone can download and remix into new creations. It’s a wonderful project and a well organized community. It seemed fitting after watching him on screen for nearly 3 hours to give this project some attention. So I went on and found a random prompt and started writing. And I’ll tell you, I felt better.
Here it is:
On the night of my eighteenth birthday, I was propositioned by a friend. We had known each other for about a month and spent most of those nights talking. He would have just been returning from a night of socializing, intoxicated as he stepped over the threshold into my modest dorm room. I would have spent the night reading in silence, not sure what I would do in the company of others.
We intrigued one another - therein lied our magnetism.
The alcohol made him bold as he held my hand.
“I would really like to have sex with you tonight.”
And because his voice held such sincere earnest, I didn’t laugh. And because I wasn’t at a particularly engaging point in the book I was reading, I placed it on the bedside table. And because I wasn’t sure when another chance like this would come along, I smiled. And because he would one day be my husband, I fell in love.
There are worse things you could do on your eighteenth birthday.