The heel of one foot had come free of its confines and rested on the rim of my shoe, my weight on the odd leg, like a lame donkey. But for the sleek data case at my side and the four hundred dollar shoes, I might have been mugged. My suit jacket was opened, tie looped from the collar, shirt soiled with sweat, unbuttoned. My face was compressed into a mask of bewildered anger. My head pounded.
I stood on the World Trade plaza facing the setting sun, low in its winter angle, gilding the building facades. The air was mild for the season. A light breeze blew in from a shimmering amber bay.
I had avoided the place for years. Now as the swollen drama of the day subsided, I stood in silence as if rooted in the hallowed ground. The bare expression jangled my nerves. Why is the ground of the dead hallowed and not the ground of the living? What was really memorialized here? An implosion of arrogance, obscene in its scale? A desperate feat of arms? Failure and humiliation? Grandeur?
My life had collapsed with the market this afternoon, and wet eyes made a blur of the horizon. My drama could not be exaggerated I thought as I stood fists clenched, a battleground of hot serrated misgivings that resolved to one certainty: I was ruined. The edifice of my life was a wreck. My implosion would have no memorial.
Broke and in debt, I felt stripped naked standing there. I had been blindsided by a crash for the second time in my 28 years. This time I was leveraged out, every cent of my own and every cent I could borrow on margin I had put to work with the calm confidence of the Wall Street professional that I was. My vanity now seemed to have come full circle with a smoldering vengeance.
Freedom Tower’s shadow, crawling inexorably along the plaza stones in the failing sun, seemed like my flung-down soul. My eyes were locked in a blind stare, and within the mind’s eye arose a vision of reason and order, an incarnation of justice and faith, hard work, reasoned risk, and a well-deserved payoff—mine—crushed like the lives here memorialized.
Memorialized. Bile rose in my throat at the word. The machine that is time would not stop to remember me. The world would toil on insensate. Fallen and disgraced in the coliseum of finance, I had no sanctuary. The towers of avarice all around would not nod for my reprieve. All thumbs were down.
I waited for rage, pent up and compounded, to come hurtling back at the glass and steel spire, which seemed poised to implode under its overweening mass, poised to hammer down all sense and sensibility in its footprint. I waited for the spire to collapse in a rage of smoking jetsam like the Twin Towers, my bloodied corpse among the splintered bone and pulp like so much landfill trash. I willed it, to no avail.
It was not yet dark, the sun a sliver of blaze across the river, when the plaza began to fill around me. Well packaged flesh and bone straggled through the obedient doors of the surrounding buildings as the elevator banks regurgitated their cargo. Faces passed around me, sullen, drained, bitter, silent. The gaps between them gradually closed until a steady throng of workers marched past me in the gathering dark.
My stomach clenched at the sight of them in the anxious twilight. In a sudden intuition they seemed to me like a swarm of cannibal appetites, of teeth and clutches and blows that did not bite or claw or beat upon me only because I’d been reduced to a ghost. I was cold, and shivered convulsively, certain I bore witness as one who was not there.
In the February dark beneath the bare Tower, my isolation grew until I had to fight the urge to walk along with them, to trudge in unison with the rush hour throng, to insist on my kinship in their hurt this terrible day. Like them, I too would have a home for the night before my life was uprooted.
I stood my ground and attempted to square my shoulders, fidgeted, demanded control of my body, my mind, my life, and fidgeted again. There was more truth in the cold night air than in any consolation. I lost the thread of my thoughts, clutched my jacket closed, and found my thoughts again, repellent thoughts.
For those left with the stake, the buy-in of a lifetime awaited, one in which I would have no share. I fairly seethed in envy, pitied and despised myself.
An algorithm of trading maneuvers, complete but for chimerical x, calculated themselves with a will of their own and died in stark remembrance: my account was a black hole, a vortex from which no light escaped.
Memorialized. “Damn,” I cursed explosively aloud, stamping my heel back in its sheath. “Damn it all.”
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