Walking to 30th Street station in Philadelphia I pass a woman (presumably a woman) on the street. She is completely veiled in black, except for the bit of forehead between the top of her veil and her headscarf.
Septa's announcement board says that most trains are "ON TIME"; but mine is "2 LATE". I'm not best pleased with the omen, but in a little while it changes from "2 LATE" to "1 LATE".
As I leave the train at Lansdowne I thank the conductor and he says "Have a great day. Not a good day, a great day."
On the way from Lansdowne station to Turtle's house I see another figure veiled in black, this time a few blocks away, too far to see any such human details as the skin of her forehead. It occurs to me that Death might walk like that, forthrightly down the street.
On the way back from Turtle's I notice plants that remind me of yarrow, though the flowers are red and pink instead of white. It seems I should take some, so I pick one stalk.
On the trip back to Philadelphia I keep my ticket at shoulder level for the entire ride, but the conductor never takes it. As I leave the train I hand it to him and he thanks me.
As I approach the Tombs I notice that the flowers are wilting. I leave them outside as I go in to pay my fine. It's a milder reprise of jail: boring and bureaucratic and unreasonably terrifying. I must leave my computer with the guards because it has a built-in camera. After checking in at Room 200 I wait for a while until a cheerful woman escorts three of us back down to the first floor to pay. The others' surnames are Keltey and Mohamed. I'm still on the docket as John Doe.
I pick up my flowers and walk half a mile to Ground Zero. The first overwhelming impression is dust and thirst. The human bodies have long ago been taken away, and the broken buildings cleared out; but this is still where part of a city died. In point of fact it's a big hole in the ground; but it's a BIG hole, bleak with cement.
The cage they've built around the site angers me, even as my rational mind knows that it needs to be there.
I go down to the subway station, which is several stories higher than the bottom of the hole. It's wide and spacious and open, the first such place I've seen in the city all day; and it's concrete top and bottom. People go back and forth, many people, and still it is open and almost empty. A park might be like this, in the land of the dead. Something inside me says "So will we survive, even in Hell."
I decide to circle the site widdershins. Maybe I can unwind an ant's weight of the tangle here. I walk close to the fence, with my left hand nearest the center and the shriveled flowers in my right. At first there is a lot of foot traffic, but as I pass the observation sites it dwindles. There are two buildings to the south that are damaged but not torn down. One is veiled in black except for a unveiled rectangle halfway up the side. The other building is smaller, and somehow has the atmosphere of a cozy rundown hotel that still manages to be stylish. (It's actually quite huge, but surrounded by nothing but skyscrapers and devastation, it seems homely and welcoming.)
Half way around there is a block-long flower bed filled with plants, the same red and pink flowers I'm holding in my hand. My eyes fill and I leave my withered flowers among their live cousins.
The south side of the side has several openings in the fence, each with a patient guardian, a construction worker who simply stands and watches the crowd. No one crowds the watchers.
When I set out I'd wondered whether to use the Subway of the Dead or walk on to another station, but when I complete the circle entering here seems the only thing to do. It's not easy to leave, though: the turnstile door starts to turn but slams to a halt before I'm half through. I have to buy another ticket before I can leave.
As Reya would say, if this day were a dream, what would it mean?