Wednesday, September 13, 2006


What were you doing when you first heard about 9/11?

The Kennedy assassination?

The death of Princess Diana?

The Challenger explosion?

The verdict of the OJ Simpson trail?

Chances are, you have pretty detailed and vivid memories of the context in which you first heard about some or all of these things, even though they were a while ago. Things like what the weather was like, who told you, where you were. These are flashbulb memories. I won't bore you with the details, but I find them interesting.

The most interesting thing about them is that most people think they are very accurate, perhaps more so than normal memory - perhaps because they are so vivid. But in general, they aren't very accurate at all, just like other memories. Memory is reconstructive - we add in bits that fit, change other bits, forget some bits altogether. Sometimes memories are entirely false. And that actually scares me a little... so some of the very vivid and detailed memories I have may never have happened? And there's probably no way to find out either, as no-one else's memory will be the full truth either.

That said, I wanted to tell what I remember about 9/11. I'm pretty sure it's accurate - but then I would be, wouldn't I?
* * * *

11th September 2001 was a Monday. I'd spent the weekend in Nottingham. Saturday I got a lift with Michael, as he had a ref meeting for the Mirrorshades LARP game. Chris, Owen and Emma (also refs) had just moved into a new house. Joel (another ref) was there - I don't remember if he got a lift with us, but he was definitely there, along with Chris's brother Joe. I called Jonathan, who I was really there to see, and he came to meet me.
We went for milkshake in one of those café/bookshop places, the café was upstairs and we sat watching people on the street outside. We had food in a Chinese place where we sat on tall stools eating off a bench in the window, I'm sure mine had chicken and noodles but I'm not sure what it was - it was yummy but there was a lot and I didn't eat it all, Jonathan finished it.
We went to an arcade and played pool, which I suck at. I may have had a go on a dance game. We went to a cinema and saw A Knight's Tale, which we both enjoyed.

Later we went back to the room in J's apartment building where I was spending the night. We were going to go back to his place but his wife (now ex-wife) was in a mood and said I couldn't go there. Strange woman. I'd brought three bottles with me - one was Bailey's but I forget the others - and we proceeded to get drunk and talk crap. At one point he lifted up the metal bed with me on it and I was suitably impressed by his strength. He also confessed that a couple of times he'd wanted to kiss me, and I told him I knew.

It was very late when he went home. I took sleeping pills. Bad idea on top of the alcohol - it was very difficult for me to get up the next morning.

We went for milkshake again, this time in the café at the train station. One of the shakes I had was mint flavour. I don't remember much more about the day, but in the evening we went to the Mirrorshades game. J went home to pick up his wife and I met him at the pub where the game was. Chris, who was in charge of the game, decided not to go that night, leaving the others in charge. The game was going very well when some guy called Robin (very enthusiastic but no common sense) jumped over a railing onto a lower section of floor. Somehow in this a girl (I think it was Laura) got a cut on her face, above the eye, and became almost hysterical. She was calmed down and wasn't seriously hurt but the refs decided to cut the game short and me and the refs went back to the Chris/Emma/Owen house. J went home, dropped off the wife, and then joined us.

The situation was discussed, food was eaten, and a late night alcohol place called up. They brought a van full of alcohol round and we bought loads. And then got drunk. It was a fun night. I was wearing a short green velvet dress. J kept sitting too close to Joe and pretending to chat him up, putting his arm round him and stroking his hair and stuff, to Joe's discomfort and our amusement. At one point Joe said, “But you can’t sleep with me, I’m under the age of consent,” to which J replied, “Who said it would be consentual?”

I remember lying on Chris and Emma’s bed with Emma and her shouting, “Why is my boyfriend so gay?” I’m not sure what Chris was doing to provoke that.

Renee (J’s evil bitch wife from hell) called and made him go home – she’s disabled and can’t put herself to bed.

We drank more. Eventually everyone went to bed except me, Michael and Owen. We persuaded Owen to bring his computer downstairs and hook it up to the TV so we could watch downloaded episodes of the new series of South Park. I was pretty drunk at this point. I was sitting on the floor in front of Michael’s chair and he was playing with my hair. Halfway through the episode (which I was too drunk to follow anyway), Michael went to bed, and after a few minutes (once I’d realised he’d gone) I followed him up to “his” room. I asked if he minded me sleeping in there too, on the camp bed, and he said it was okay.

I have to mention at this point, we had a bit of a history. We’d been friends for maybe 3 years, and hung out with the same group from the role-playing club. Back in the early days we’d expressed an interest in each other and had gone as far as some kissing, but he was in a serious relationship and I was just beginning a relationship with a guy I’d go out with for five years, so we decided not to take it further. Every time we slept over somewhere we’d be bed partners, because we felt comfortable with each other. And a couple of months previously we’d stayed at Gareth’s with a bunch of other friends, shared a room and rather a lot of strong cider together and without going into too much detail I’d surprised him (and myself to be honest) with my proficiency in a certain act. Let’s just say I couldn’t talk while I was doing it.

And of course on that Sunday night, things happened. We went somewhat further. A lot further. Afterwards we talked and he told me that it wouldn’t happen again because he was seeing a girl from ‘Shades called Hayley (who coincidentally I didn’t like) and it wasn’t a good idea to complicate things. I was in a relationship too; I’d been living with Chris for 18 months and seeing him for four years. Michael asked me not to tell anyone what went on between us. I told him I might tell Hayley and he was a little annoyed at that, he asked why I’d want to sabotage things for him like that. Actually I meant a different Hayley, my best friend. But to be honest, I was disappointed, because I thought he liked me.

The next morning things were a bit weird. We got up before anyone else surfaced, and watched TV while we waited for them to wake up. And in the afternoon we drove home. I’m pretty sure Joel came with us. Michael dropped me off at home, and helped me with my bag, and was just about to get in the car again when I asked for a hug, which he gave me. We were all a bit quiet.

I went inside. My boyfriend Chris was home, with his best friend Dave who practically lived with us. I didn’t feel guilty – things weren’t great between us and I was pretty sure he didn’t care for me so much anymore, but of course I didn’t want him to find out what had happened, so I tried hard to act normal and I don’t think he noticed anything. I said I was tired (which I was), but really I had stuff to sort out in my head.

I hadn’t been home long when we turned on the TV and saw the news. Two buildings. Planes. They showed the footage over and over and over. Crash. Burn. Crash. Burn. Heaps of smoking wreckage, twisted metal, fire-fighters. Crash. Burn. Recordings of telephone calls. The story of the brave people on one of the planes who’d tried to stop the hijacker. This was going to be the start of World War Three. They said another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. It was unthinkable – this was the day the world changed forever.

To be honest, it was too much for my head to take. I told Chris and Dave I was going for a walk, I couldn’t sit there and watch. I was glad to get out so I could have chance to think a bit, but when I got out I didn’t think much at all, I just walked. I thought I’d walk up past the Loggins garage (where we’d call after the role-playing club on Friday for beer and snacks before heading to Gareth’s to play DOA2 and watch Bansai), then on to Holmebrook Valley Park where I used to walk with my friend and his dog when I visited. A long way.

I was halfway to the garage and I walked past my friend Joel’s house. He saw me though the window and came out into the street to ask if I’d seen the news, then he invited me in. We had tea and sat in the garden talking about what the implications might be. He asked if I was okay. I told him about the previous night. Joel’s the kind of person you can trust with stuff like that, and he understands, he’s easy to talk to. I felt very comfortable with him, strange that even though I slept with him (another drunken night, how bad was I?) it didn’t affect our friendship in the least. I was there a while, and later his mum gave me a lift home.

When I got back Chris and Dave were just about to come out looking for me because they were worried, I’d been gone ages. I watched more news. And I felt pretty numb, like I’d overloaded or something. I didn’t cry. I just watched. And really, the actual human cost didn’t come home to me until yesterday, when I wrote my tribute to Tu-Ahn and realised that the people who died were people.

* * * *

So there’s my story. I think it’s pretty interesting really. And in case you want to know the rest of the Anna/Michael story, here it is.

Michael kept seeing Hayley for a few more months before he realised that he was doing all the running, and the relationship wasn’t really going anywhere. We saw each other every week as usual, but I tried to keep away from him a little because I didn’t think he was interested in me and it hurt. Eventually I mostly got over it.

I stayed with Chris for another year. I told him several times I wanted things to change – he’d get upset and promise to make more effort and that we’d spend time together, but it never happened. I gave him enough chances. And in the end I told him it wasn’t worth carrying on. So Chris asked if he could stay in the house until after Christmas, as he’d be very busy at work until then. I wasn’t happy but I agreed.

That summer I’d been spending more time with Michael, we’d go to karaoke together, maybe see a film. We spent hours talking in his car.

One weekend his parents were away (he’d moved back in with them for a while after he broke up with his long-term ex), and he invited a group of us back after the club that Friday night. I could tell he really wanted me to stay, but there wasn’t a way to do it without everyone knowing. When Tris offered me a lift home I had to accept, frustrated though I was. But I went back the next night, on my own. We ate pizza and watched Gladiator. It was weird, I spent the whole night waiting for him to make a move but he didn’t. I was so disappointed. When we went to bed we talked for ages and I was just beginning to think I’d got it wrong and he wasn’t interested, when he kissed me. And we had some of the best sex ever.

The day Chris and I broke up finally, we went out to karaoke as usual. I told him that I was now free. And for the first time ever, I didn’t sing on the karaoke. We just talked most of the night. On the way back to the car, we kissed again. We kept it secret for months, partly to protect Chris as it was a bit weird that we’d started seeing each other so soon after the break-up, and partly because it just wasn’t anyone else’s business. Eventually some friends confronted us, saying that it was making them uncomfortable (!) and that we should be open about it.

And I guess the rest is history.

And I’m so sorry this has turned into the gigantic mammoth post from Tomuchinformationsville.

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