The More Things Change . . .

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The More Things Change...

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In the past two weeks, since the world changed, I’ve felt physically useless and uninterested in sex. — Me, September 24, 2001

I was lying when I said I didn’t have sex for two weeks after the towers came down. It was actually one week, but everything seemed so much more important in those days; one week felt like two. I wanted to join the Peace Corps. I wanted to go undercover with RAWA (Revolutionary Afghan Women Association). I thought I hated my husband Dave because he made jokes about Bush and didn’t want to join the Peace Corps. And then, instead of doing daring acts in distant lands, I became pregnant. It happened that first time we did it after 9/11. Life became smaller for me then — the overwhelming questions were for other, unpregnant people to pose and answer. My life was approximately two inches long. My love and fear for the whole world narrowed down to fill one, small person.


Bombarded by 9/11 anniversary specials in magazines and on TV, with their images of gigantic destruction, it’s hard to feel that my day today — trying out a new zucchini-bread recipe (it’s great!), smiling back at my baby and, when she falls asleep, letting my Big Baby (that would be Dave) inside — is as real for as that day one year ago was for people fleeing an avalanche of mortar powder. Or even as real as my own life was that day, watching live TV and feeling change as strong as an actual person breaking into my house. In the end, though, people are affected by what’s in their day, not what’s in other people’s days. I’ve always believed the composer John Cage, that every seat is the best seat. Eavesdropping on the teenage couple next to you in the back of the theater, or being lulled to sleep by the opening and closing of the usher’s door (and what wild dreams you’ll find yourself in, and then forget), is just as scintillating and significant as the front-row view. When you truly believe that, then baking zucchini bread is as meaningful as dying. And so, after my brief and ineffectual foray into social consciousness, I’ve fallen back to my individualist ways.
     “Everything is different now,” we all said in the days following the first large-scale terrorist attack on American soil. But when I tracked down the people I’d interviewed then, I found that the songs have remained the same. Ann Miller, who was wont to be wanton before 9/11, is wont to be wanton post 9/11. Miguel was fucking against death even as a child. And even though Terry McGaughey wasn’t in this country on 9/11, it’s still more real to him today than it is for a lot of Americans — because it was real to him before: his brother-in-law had his legs blown off in an IRA bomb. The crisis, more than actually changing anything, simply illuminated whoever a person was. For me, those dire days made my lifelong fantasies of being a spy and saving the world seem actually possible, but in the end, the path of my life was directed, once again, by the loins.

Erik Swanson – Maine

I broke up with my girlfriend [Beth]. This tragedy made me realize what a self-centered jerk she is.

Beth: Erik was really sad about 9/11, and I was really mad. I wanted to go out and smash stuff. I knew there was nothing I could do to help him, because I didn’t think there was anything anyone could do. We broke up for a couple days, and then when we got back together, things were different. That was the point when we realized we did want to be together. Before that, our relationship was kind of recreational.
Lisa: Did your sex life become — sorry, I gotta say this — deeper?
Erik: I do think that after 9/11, a sort of tenderness set in, and the frequency really went down. I used to smack Beth a lot [during rough sex]. And that stopped after 9/11.
Lisa: Do you miss that, Beth?
Beth: Sometimes. At the time, I did want something different and more tender. But now I do miss it.
Lisa: How have your outlooks changed?
Erik: I look at America differently. Whenever I hear that Saddam Hussein or al-Qaeda got away with something, I cheer. I feel like we’re the bad guys. The government is. These attacks happened and people came together. They gave to the Red Cross, they gave blood. And all these companies and corporations ran ads about how they love America, how much they care — and then they moved to the Caymen Islands and fucked over everyone. I think all this recent corporate scandal has made people more angry than they would have been otherwise, because now we know that people are capable of being honorable. Before 9/11, we thought those are just the games companies play. Now we think it doesn’t have to be like that.
Beth: I’ve become obsessed with 9/11. I can’t stop watching 9/11 remembrances and I read every article about it. Before, I’d think, “I wish people would just stop whining about it.” Now I get really upset.
Erik: A couple days ago, Beth was just crying all day about it.
Beth: I used to be a misanthrope. Since then, I’ve become more compassionate.

Lisa Carver is the author of the books Dancing Queen, Rollerderby, The Lisa Diaries and Drugs Are Nice. She’s written for Hustler, Index, Icon, Feed, Newsday and Playboy, among others. She lives in New Hampshire.

©2001 Lisa Carver and, Inc.