I wrote this for a column that was published shortly after Sepember 11, 2001. With the anniversary coming up, I thought I'd re-publish it here.
She always smoked with the door closed, choking me in the jazz-club air of her tiny bedroom. Her mom bought cigarettes for her by the carton, so Julie wasn’t trying to keep telltale smoke in. She shut the door to prevent our secret escape plan from billowing out.
Two little girls of 17, bellies flopped down on Julie’s futon. Her stubby fingers tracing a map, plotting our trajectory from Southern California suburbs to Real Life. First, off to college – me in Chicago, her in Santa Cruz. Then New York. Manhattan. A giant, crowded city of possibilities. We’ll be roommates.
We have it all planned out. Inexplicable wealth. Amazing clothes. Successful careers in theater and journalism. Our favorite fantasy projects 10 years into the future, New Year’s Eve 2000, to be spent on the rooftop deck of our apartment overlooking Times Square. Me. Julie. A couple of bottles of champagne and a few men lucky enough to share our company. Manhattan glittering around us like a chorus line.
She drops the map, and I grab it to get a better look. It’s strange. Manhattan looks so small relative to anything in California. It’s not what I expected.