I don’t know when it suddenly became passé to mention the September 11 attacks. I’m given this look that’s almost disdainful, like I’m breaking some goddamn rule by talking about it. Is there a time limit to grief?
I wonder if it’s because no one I know died there. I don’t have a right to talk about I because I have not suffered, is that how it works? Maybe it’s the same thing as the dilemma of funereal sympathy, the I’m sorry for your loss everyone seems to hate. Why is it that condolences cannot be accepted unless you’ve gone through the same thing? Equal proportions?
In a way I understand: maybe it is kind of empty, but is that only because it’s said so often or because no one cares to believe the people saying it could possibly be showing sincerity? Hat in hand, a quick pat on the shoulder, the casual I’m sorry for your loss, it all rings with crude social routineness rather than actual sorrow, as regular as the hey Deborah a business man may shoot to his secretary every morning.
I feel so awkward at funerals. There isn’t anything you can say. Instead, I think of her. How she was so passionate about mathematics. How she was a reckless driver. How she wore a white knit cap, even to sleep. How she threaded a string between her socks so as to never lose them in the washing machine. How she was terrified of the ocean. How she could never blow gum bubbles. How she deliberately stepped on the cracks in sidewalks. How she was so skinny and so tall: a daddy longlegs. How she spent way more than she could actually afford. How she had gotten two tickets for speeding. How her fat cat ate everything, including wasabi. How she had a photograph of her sister on her keyring. How she wore purple eye shadow. How she had crow’s feet. How she had pigeon toes.
My eyes are on the floor, but I see someone, her resident dorm advisor apparently, a woman with red hair and long fingernails, go up to her father and say I’m sorry for your loss. I feel my heart filling my ears and think, so loud I hope they’ll hear: IS THAT ALL ANYONE CAN SAY?