Full Circle

On the morning of September 11, 2001, my Albino Ex — who was then just my beau of three years’ standing — called me to ask if I’d been listening to the news. I hadn’t. “Someone just flew a plane into the Pentagon,” he said. Since the Pentagon is three miles from me, this got my attention; so did the shaken disbelief in his voice. The Ex is a red-white-and-blue Obama Republican, a Federal worker with a security clearance and a Boys’ Own Paper brand of naive, disarming nationalism that calls to mind a World War Two-era poster. We had no idea what was going to happen next, of course. I think it crossed both our minds that we might not see each other again; it’s easy to forget, as rapidly as things developed, how uncertain those first few hours were.

He walked home from downtown that day, an hours-long march under a cloudless late-summer sky that left him poached like a lobster. We spent our spare moments in the next few days listening to the emergency services on his scanner.

We remain on good terms, he and I, though he drop-kicked me in 2003 and weeks at a time go by without our communicating. These days I wouldn’t normally think of calling him at nearly eleven on a Sunday evening, but I know he’s not someone to keep the TV on or monitor a Twitter feed.

I dialed the number. He sounded alarmed and groggy.

“The news outlets are all saying bin Laden is dead and we have his body,” I told him.

He has an unsettling, gleeful tenor laugh. It started on a light note of disbelief while he turned on the cable television, then mounted to an operatic buoyancy. He managed to get a news update from Al Jazeera, of all things, and after a few seconds I left him to it.

America closed an account tonight, whatever anyone thinks about the cost. I am not sure what it says about our country, or human nature in general, when Twitter updates from everywhere are extolling the uniting, inspiring effect of a man’s death, even a diabolus like Osama. I just remember the shattered inflection in that first unexpected phone call, and the surreal perfection of the September sky.

I gave tonight’s news back to the man who called me that morning.

Account closed.


15 thoughts on “Full Circle

  1. Just as I joined the crowd of people evacuating the Hill, I called a former business partner, a late riser who had just opened shop about 1/2 hour earlier.

    “Hey Charlie, I’m on my way over. I can’t get a train from DC, so I need to make my way through the burbs to my sister’s and see about getting a ride out of the DC area”

    “OK. You might have a hard time though, traffic is absolutely insane on Wilson Blvd. I wonder what’s going on?”

    “Charlie, turn on the TV. Just turn on the TV. I’ll be there when I get there.”

    As of tonight, it doesn’t feel like such a recent event.

    • I won’t deny it was played for maximum dramatic effect once events went down, but this is one situation where it’s hard to imagine that timing would depend on anything but the optimum chance of success.

      Navy Seals continue to impress me.

  2. Job done. Here, and in whole Europe, there’s like a vibration of love and admiration vs the USA. Romans cab drivers are a good signa as for here only of course. And the psychological impact over the South shores of the MED, the Middle East (Palestine / Israel etc.), Persia or Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia etc. (ok, poor people – but a few ready to soon become big powers) and in any case hugely influential on the planet.

  3. I dislike celebrations of killing, but it would have been wrong to let the guy die of natural causes.

    Suspicion of timing, though: To those prone to such thinking, no timing would have been non-suspect. I gather it was an intelligence operation of unthinkable delicacy, and to finally get assets in place without spooking a supremely able survivor and his team was an absolute masterwork.

    AJE is becoming my go-to network for Middle East and South Asia news. Even NPR filters too much.

    Pakistan has become a basket of vipers that we must keep our hands in regardless. Surely the ripple effects there of this operation can help us hook out some of the worst of the snakes.

  4. @Don

    To me timing is clearly planned in advance. Not that I am surprised. Politicians are all like that. Which doesn’t mean Obama here was not a good commander in chief.

    • No, I can’t buy it. It was such a delicate operation that it simply needed to be done when conditions allowed. If it really could be timed, then it would be timed with something meaningful, such as the 2012 primaries about ten months from now, or the mid-term push last October. There’s nothing political going on right now that benefits from this event.

      And here I am, a never-Democrat, not being cynical about Obama.

      • Don, I have always liked Obama. But I have been into politics. It’s not that they are cynical (many of course are), it’s their job, they are linked to so many people and interests, they have to respond to them too, but most of all – the good ones – have a sense of their mission, left or right wing little matters. I started as a leftist. Many in my family were from the right, many … well, all of them. Woke up in the mid of the night. Too late to continue lol.

      • It was planned and timed to kill Osama bin Laden, and that happened. I am old enough to remember the Iran hostage rescue attempt. This triumph has easily reversed that debacle.

        President Obama provided the leadership and took charge of this operation. My vote on election day is unlikely to go to Mr. Obama, but I have no trouble giving him due credit for the success.

  5. I’m tired of the politics. Dull and tedious and boring and DESPERATELY dull, to borrow from a favorite Monty Python bit, but…

    I like the shape of this piece of writing.

  6. Jenny said:

    I’m tired of the politics. Dull and tedious and boring

    I totally agree, and I’ll add:

    At my age, 62, when almost all is done, with nothing to be shown and nothing to be demonstrated or proven any more, with less and less responsibilities (a bit of an utopia): ALL I care is people around me, history, my slice of blogosphere (with living people in it as varied as possible), sex (only in my wimpy dreams of course) and my fading away guitar capabilities.

    Morte a Venezia?
    As of now:
    Vita a Roma.


    (The moron Moor of Venice)

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