A Walk into Mercy’s Arms

New York City, October 2001: We walked from Central Park to the church on 21st. This church, like all the others in a town built on Runyan and Warhol, bleeds upwards to the sky in an ageless chiseled portrait of fight against the gallivant of a town whose purchase is an ageless sin. 

Our walk was ceremonial, respectful to the invitation which had been proffered, but with no intention of acceptance. We had come to the agreement that we weren’t gonna broker those mighty steps up into the insides of that church and its sacred gathering. That service, it was about the faces and the names who had shared in the lives of those taken, and we . . . we were not a part of that. We were tourists. Not of a company or a precinct, and certainly not of that brotherhood lost. Our hosts had been gracious in the offering, but we didn’t merit entry into that church and we knew it. 

We had trudged back from Central Park after breakfast, burning off the nervous energy of three days spent as volunteers at the 13th precinct inside the down under of mid town. The boys in navy blue, crisp and tucked firm, had invited us to a memorial service for the fallen.The city was ripe with memorial services in the days and weeks and months after September 11th. We knew we had to go, there. If not inside, we had to go there. So we did, and then we stood and watched, outside that church on 21st. We watched the advance of kilts and bagpipes, and then we watched the sea of navy blue uniforms, crisp and tucked firm, as they followed the music inside. Into a closure whose full degree was never going to come. 

Once the procession had moved inside, our group decided on heading back to the hotel to rest up until dinner. The idea of rest wasn’t working for me, so I told the group I would meet up with them later. I had to walk. 

I walked north, with ideas on Central Park. I found a corner grocery and I bought a pack of smokes to keep me company. And then I walked, hard and long and for the length of an afternoon that was heavy on clouds. I walked uptown and then I walked back downtown, stopping at intervals for a drink with strangers at one place and then another place after that. The undertaking felt ridiculous and the results sublime; to take part in the same old same of a carnival atmosphere while stuck in the middle of such a hellish proposition as the one that had been tendered. But I had to. I had to let the city still be the city to me. The city I grew up inside of. The city I left. The city I came back to. Again and again and again. 

My walk whittled until the hotel was within sight, and that’s when I looked at my pack of smokes and I counted up. There were seven left. I had crunched thirteen into memory as I sewed my legs into concrete across a city’s afternoon. I stopped right there to celebrate the occasion by lighting up one more. And that’s when my ears grabbed onto a Mamas and the Papas spill that was screaming from deep inside the bowels of a souvenir shop chock full of red and white and blue. And so I stood there and I tugged hard at my last bit of ridiculous until the feeling went sublime.

I prayed. Not sure what for, not sure what to. But the feeling was upwards. And the mercy was true, and my legs, they were tired enough to let it go at that. 



21 thoughts on “A Walk into Mercy’s Arms

  1. I like to walk that city. Just walk and walk and look and think. Though, I don’t get the luxury of a drink with strangers, being a woman. People talk and make up things.

    I hate that we have anniversaries of this kind, that we are compelled to mark un-natural, untimely death. Would that we all, when the appropriate time comes, could go gently into that good night.

    Living just breaks the heart sometimes, doesn’t it?

    I hope you are well.

    • I am well. I was so busy yesterday and when I got home last night I was going to log on and then I thought . . no. I called my kids instead and we had a conference call. I told them I loved them. I listened to some music and drifted off to sleep. Outside of my girlfriend, I didn’t talk about the anniversary with anyone. First time in thirteen years I let the day go by without writing or talking with people or watching something about it.
      Life has broken my heart- as it has all of us, time and again- and I guess we got to here out of putting it back together again. Step at a time. Breath at a time.

  2. Cayman,
    I was looking for the perfect tribute this morning and yours is it. I often feel guilt? Shame? Unworthiness? Kinda weird…these feelings that still drop me to my knees 13 years later and I didn’t know a single person impacted directly. Unless you count my friends who were deployed after–yeah, their lives have never been the same either. All these tendrils that join us–some tie and some strangle. Thanks for sharing your walk through the city…I would have walked with you had I been there.

  3. “And so I stood there and I tugged hard at my last bit of ridiculous until the feeling went sublime.” What an amazing description of what was happening. Beautiful writing I loved your last graph. Amazing writing for such a touch moment.

    • We went to a pub that night and we talked about the days spent helping. To a person, we wondered if anything would change for the better. I think the change is an individual accomplishment, because as far as Congress and two administrations are concerned, I see worse. Sorry, I’ll get off my political soapbox. Thanks Guat.

  4. Well done Cayman!
    I work in midtown Manhattan. I made one observation today. As I commute from one of the outer boroughs I noticed that only about 2/3 of the passengers were noticeably absent thus morning. Not sure if it was out of fear or sadness..
    Outstanding writing as usual. Extremely profound..

    • All the way out here, we had a lot of people who ditched the work day as well. September 11th touched so many lives in so many places, we’re never going to stop feeling the reverberations of it. Thanks Fantasy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s