Ghosts

This has very little to do with BDSM, and everything to do with me being a scared, jumpy child today. Emotionally, I am a mess.

A year ago today I was in noise and chaos. I could smell smoke in a city I always considered to be safe. I was right near my comfort zone, AIB, which was school yet not, enjoying one of the biggest days for most Bostonians, Marathon Day.

I was there with my friend Sara, not at the finish but near Copley Square. And I can not, for the life of me, remember running so fast in all my life. I don’t run. Period.

I don’t remember getting back to my dorm. I remember sitting in the lounge, clinging to Sara, shaking. Wondering what had just happened; how had they found me here?

I grew up fifteen minutes from Manhattan, and could see the Twin Towers from my elementary school window. I was ten when the towers got hit. I remember not understanding when the teacher said the World Trade Center was gone. We didn’t know it as that. When she saw our confusion, she had us all stand and go to the giant window that showed us the view of the city.

I remember the smoke. The city that I loved was nothing but smoke.

That day feels very far away now, as it had on the day of the Marathon Bombing. But ghosts creep back when you’re not looking. Being surrounded by chaos and smoke again… you become a scared child.

I had to reach out my family. My parents were home in New Jersey and, knowing them, were hyperventilating. They knew I was going to the race; most colleges had off for Marathon Day, and the city traffic gets so tied up that there’s nothing else to do, really. My phone could not make calls. Sara’s phone could not text. We took turns swapping cell phones to reach out to people.

My dorm was small. There were only ten of us living there, and everyone there knew that I had been living there since my second year at school. Gradually, one by one, my dorm mates joined me in the lounge to watch the news on the TV. Sara stayed; I wasn’t going to let her try to take mass transit back in the chaos, and I worried about her getting hurt. Eventually there were ten of us glued to the TV..with one roommate missing.

My friend Nicole lived next door. She was my insomnia buddy; we pulled all nighters together when we both fell behind with studio work. I went upstairs to find her, knowing that I hadn’t seen her leave that day.

The door to her room was unlocked, and I found her curled up in a ball on her bed, sobbing. I ran over and hugged her, asking if she was okay, asking what was wrong. “It’s the ghosts” she said. “I got rid of them. I really thought they were gone, but they came back.”

While I grew up close to the city, Nicole grew up in New York City. She was one of the children you saw on the news being evacuated from schools near Ground Zero. She was one of the ones stuck on the bridge for hours, until eventually like so many other her and her mother had to get out of the car and walk. If I was touched by 9/11, she had been slammed, and there was something too damn haunting about the Marathon Bombing for both of us.

It’s a unique experience, going through both and remembering both. One seems like a childhood nightmare, the other is almost wielded like a badge of honor. “I was there. I saw.” Understand something. I got no joy in seeing, in going through it. I still have nightmares.

For locals, the Marathon Bombing wasn’t just one day. It was a week of hell. It was jumping at every little noise because you were afraid another bomb had gone off. It was hearing the shots fired at MIT. Not hearing of them on the news, literally hearing them from your dorm window because you were just that close, and being terrified they would go to Harvard next. The night of the shooting I had called my ex trembling like a leaf. Guns terrify me, and I lived in a very safe area of the city. Hearing the shots was enough to cause a panic attack. I distinctly remember calling him because if I never said “I love you” to him again I would regret it.

The day of the manhunt the city was in lockdown, and so was my dorm. The ten of us sat, glued to the TV, eating the sandwiches delivered by brave kitchen workers to our dorm. We kept each other calm; we made crafts, and told stories. I managed to coax Nicole out of her room for the first time in days and she made baked ziti for us. I continually texted my parents and my ex so everyone knew that I wasn’t dead, that the scary bomber hadn’t gotten me.

And then I remember when they captured the bomber, and realizing, with shock, that he was a kid. He was a college aged kid who had worshipped his older brother. I thought about my own little sister, quite a few years my junior, and how I was so cool to her, how she would do anything for me.

I remember feeling sick, and thinking that being lost in the smoke had been better.

No one seems to know about the bombing out here, and it’s no surprise. I’m sitting in San Francisco wearing my Boston Strong tee shirt, and people keep giving me strange looks for it. They can’t connect someone here being there. It’s too far away. Too foreign.

I’ll tell you the honest truth. I’m not here right now. I’m back in my dorm room, curled up in a ball, listening to gun shots less than a mile away.

Ghosts are real bastards to kill of.

-Rena

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