Ours is a common story everyone has heard of. We met at a time when his first marriage had run its course, and I was psyching myself out of a toxic relationship that was not meant to be. I was heart broken, confused and unhappy.
After a casual encounter, we inadvertently got ourselves involved in a series of texts and emails that gradually turned into expensive overseas phone calls (he lived in Toronto and I was just starting a business in Manila), virtual chats and hand-written, stamps & postman-involving letter exchanges. For some reason I got smitten in the process.
Six months after our first meeting, I took a leap of faith and agreed to see him again, this time in New York City. A commitment about our future together was never discussed, but we promised each other it will be the best weekend of our lives.
In retrospect, I do not recall every single detail of that weekend, which is very surprising to me and those who know me well. I believe that it’s the small details that make or break me.
I do however recall the long wait at JFK. It was hurricane season and flights were cancelled and delayed. I remember the smell of Room 1602 at the Helmsley in Manhattan, and how the bathroom window had the view of the top of the Chrysler building. I remember the Brazilian festival on 5th Avenue, packed with shiny and sweaty olive skinned Portuguese boys. I remember walking the streets of New York, feeling so genuinely happy being with this man. In my mind I knew that his presence in my life was temporary given the different worlds we lived in, but I savoured every second of bliss I felt.
That weekend in New York, in one of our walks on 5th Avenue, he professed his love for me in front of a Bank of America branch. I don’t recall if I took him seriously since we barely knew each other and have not spent that much time together.
I do not remember the number 1 song that weekend. Nor the top 3 movies in the box office that summer - these I have immediate answers for if the dates in question are that of my children’s birth days. It frustrates me that all those small details are now lost on me.
A day after our beautiful weekend, the World Trade Center in Manhattan was attacked. I was at a hotel in Minneapolis having breakfast, watching Aaron Brown on CNN with the rest of the world, as the second tower was hit.
I stared at the television and saw the streets where I was literally dancing on a few days before with complete strangers. Those were the same streets of New York where my husband and I spent the best weekend of our lives. That’s where I found myself being happy again. Minutes later the whole of Manhattan was covered in a cloud of darkness and horror.
It may have been at that moment when all the small details got lost on me. Everything seemed insignificant. More than 3,000 people died that day, and for millions of others a huge piece of themselves died too.
The world was never the same since that week in September of 2001. And neither was mine.