Thursday meditation to Saint Anastacia: Listen. Listen to your own thoughts and be gentle with them, for this skill will allow you to listen to others with compassion and empathy.
Anastacia, holy Anastacia, You who were borne by Yemenja, our mother, give us the strength to struggle each day so we may never become slaves, so that, like you, we may be rebellious creatures. May it be so. Amen.
Thursdays were silent meditations.
The second week of camp, the team split up their roles on the project as they had seen on the documentary and been instructed by Mr. Stokes. They mapped out the questions to be asked, how they would stage the interview room, and determined where the cameras and lights would be placed. Their piece also required them to go to the Ground Zero, where the World Trade Tower were destroyed, site to film. Tyrone volunteered to download a variety of religious music.
“Now, who do we want to interview?” Sheryl asked.
“Ordinary people. New Yorkers. But I think we should make sure they are not all alike,” Dana jumped in.
“Do you mean all in the same class?” asked Tyrone.
“Yeah, not all poor or all rich,” added Sarah.
“Can I work on that?” Sheryl asked. “I promise I’ll try to be as balanced as I can. I think we can do the interviews at my house. My mother loves this kind of thing. I’m sure she’ll help us get a hold of some people to interview too.”
“Okay, when are you guys free to go to Chinatown and Little Italy? We’ll have to hit Harlem and Coney Island too.”
Aria wondered if a parent would be accompanying them, but was too afraid to ask.
“Can we exchange numbers?” asked Sarah.
The group carried on with the logistical arrangements.
The next day at camp the group continued on hashing out the logistics.
“My mom said we could film at our house. I live on the Upper East Side. I’ll give you the address before we go home today. Can you guys get there this Saturday?” asked Sheryl.
“Did you find people to interview already?” Aria asked.
“I didn’t. My mother did. She promised she wouldn’t take over the project.”
“Who are they?” asked Dana.
“A stockbroker, a teacher, a fireman, a radio host, and her friend that owns a bunch of real estate in the city.”
“We’ve got the questions down, right?” Tyrone said.
“I’ll bring the staging props. My uncle will help me get them over there. Is it okay if he stays?” asked Aria.
“Yes. See you at my house,” said Sheryl.
That Friday, Aria asked Kiev for his permission to use a couple of his sculptures for the interview background. She detected his approval and selected the piece depicting the man hiding beneath the veil, and the cello bust. That night she laid out her clothes for the next day. She wanted to be comfortable but also needed to look the part of a director. She perused her grandmother’s hats and found the green one with the large daisy. Gray pantaloons, a red T-shirt and a jean vest with several pockets. She felt a sweet anticipation for the next day.
Rudy accompanied Aria to Sheryl’s house and helped her carry Kiev’s sculptures. When they got to the condominium, Aria realized Sheryl’s self confidence probably had something to do with privilege. She had never been to a building with a uniformed doorman, and a large fancy foyer. Sheryl’s family condominium was fancy but on the gaudy side for Aria. Lots of red- and gold-plated panels and vases were the base décor for the place.
The team set up for the first of four interviews. Aria staged. She placed two Victorian-looking chairs across from each other in front of a gas-powered fire place. A
large oil painting of a starry night hung over the mantel. On each side of the fireplace, Aria placed one of Kiev’s sculptures. All the participants arrived approximately at the same time and were entertained by Rochelle, Sheryl’s mother, until their turn came up. All received the same set of questions: How long have you lived in New York City? How would you describe living in the city before 9/11? How would you describe living in the city after 9/11? Do you think people feel safer now or not? Do you think 9/11 made New Yorkers come together more regardless of ethnicity, religion, or race? Sheryl served as the interviewer, and the filming began once the guests were seated.
“Mom, we’re ready for Mr. Grayson.” Sheryl said to the group, “He’s the fireman.”
“Ready to start? This is Mr. Grayson, Mr. Herman Grayson.” Rochelle brought Mr. Grayson into the room. She looked around approvingly, and then fixated on the two sculptures at the fireplace. Aria grew cold, thinking that she had misjudged their appropriateness. Mr. Grayson spoke first. “Rochelle, those are beautiful sculptures. I can see why you kept those for yourself.”
“They’re not mine.” Rochelle floated over to one of the sculptures, examining the work. “Exquisite. Whose are these?”
“My Uncle Kiev’s.”
“He is quite an artist.”
“Mother, I think we need to get started with the filming.”
“Yes, yes go ahead,” moving away, still looking at the pieces.
That day the group filmed Mr. Grayson, the fireman who helped to evacuate at least 100 people from the towers and still suffered from breathing difficulties; Mr. Marc Samson, a stockbroker that should have been working in the towers that day, but didn’t go in because he took his dog to the veterinarian instead; Ms. Sharon Firetag, a teacher who worked in a Brooklyn private school; Mr. Abdul Akim a local radio host who broadcasted from a downtown station close to where the attacks occurred; and finally, Ms. Susan Kim, a real estate investor and developer. One of her properties was damaged as a result of the attack. All of the participants lost at least one person due to 9/11.
The group proceeded to get street and neighborhood footage over the next three days. Elias agreed to tag along as a silent and distant chaperone. Aria found comfort in knowing he’d be not too far away, the other kids indifferent to him being there.
Aria, Sheryl, and the group met downtown to take a look at where the World Trade Center once stood. The cavity where the towers came down was thousands of times larger than the hole she dug in Oma and Opa’s yard. It could hold thousands of videocassettes. It laid in plain sight, reminding its victims, and its victims’ victims, of what had been done. She looked at the site and wondered how anyone would even began to undo the immense injustices..
The way tourists gawked at the hole seemed obscene. The giant wound had no way of hiding itself or camouflaging exactly what it was. She wished she could pour the sky into the deformity.
A street troupe performing a Butoh dance filled a small alcove on Wall Street in front of Trinity Church. Their faces and bodies contorted, in slow writhing movements.
“Just a minute you guys, I want to watch a little of this,” said Sarah, interested in the dancers.
“This is Butoh, you’ll need more than a minute to watch. It’ll take an hour for them to bring their finger from their nose to their lip,” Tyrone laughed.
Aria found it to be reeking of too much sadness for her taste. The white ghost faces and twisted expressions touched a raw emotion too close to the core for her comfort. Dana and Sheryl were uninterested and anxious to get moving.
“That reminds me, I think we need mood music for the narrative portion, what do you think of cello?” Tyrone asked.
“Well I can also ask my uncle. He plays the cello, ” said Aria.
The group took footage of the site and of people who were visiting or worked in the area. When they finished they went their separate ways. Aria rode the train with Elias.
“Looks like it’s going okay. How are you feeling about things?” asked Elias.
“I think, okay but we’ll see how everything comes together.”
“Ain’t that the truth? It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”
On their way to the Kensington house, they took the “F” train from Grand Central. Aria noticed a dark black infant suckling at the breast of a lithe young woman with almost translucent skin, blonde hair and cold blue eyes. Her pointed chin jutted forward warning against inquiries. What struck Aria was the vulnerability of the baby without the camouflage of its mother’s color. She’d never had a ‘knowing’ like this one before.
“What an odd looking duo.” Elias noticed the two as well.
“So you see the really white woman and the really dark baby too?” she whispered.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I, they’re right there.” He tilted his head in the direction of the two. “The contrast between the two of them is so shocking. It’s almost like there’s a rich story there, full of secrets. Doesn’t it? I’d love to have the ability to know things like that. Call me nosey.”
“Uncle Elias, this might sound odd what I’m going to say.” She looked out of the corner of her eye at him.
“I’m sure I’ve heard stranger. What is it, Bird?”
“Sometimes I know things about people before they do, or things they are trying to hide. It shows up as them having animal parts.” Aria cringed and stared at his face..This was an act of courage, disclosing this to someone she was growing attached to. He could pull away, leave. She realized it was also a test, maybe it was sabotage. She didn’t know which, and then became confused as to why she’d said anything. She wished she could take it back.
“Okay, that might be up there on the list of strange coming from a thirteen year old. I have a friend who is a psychic but she’s thirty-two.” He smiled and held her ahnd.
He was willingly to listen, she needed to explain. “Within the religion we practice, it’s not so strange to have, but my mother told me that most people would find it odd. But it can be very helpful.” She nodded her head.
“I see. So what kind of animal parts?” he said with a hint of giggle.
“Well, like for you, for example, the first time I saw you I saw a large tail of an alligator. You still have it.”
“Me, what? What does that mean?”
“It means you have a secret, something is following you and you are trying to hide it. And it trips you up occasionally. I don’t know what it is only you know that.”
“Well, thanks for telling me. I’ll have to work on getting rid of my tail.” Elias held her hand and kissed her forehead. ”Sounds like you have very unique sense of intuition.”