You know, the Twin Towers were 28 when they fell, he said, picking his beer glass up off the table. I mean, it had been 28 years, 5 months, and seven days since they were inaugurated, but nobody counts all that when they’re counting. April 4, 1973, to, well, it doesn’t matter, until April 4th comes again. You die at any point in the year you’re 28, you’re 28 forever. Although it does get complicated when you talk about them as they were- you know, a complex. One and two, they opened in ‘73, but they started filling with tenants in ‘70. Three, they were building that until ‘81, I think? Seven they didn’t finish until 1987. And here is the issue: this superstructure they were building, it was supernumerated from its conception- spilling out of notation, taxonomy, bridging between systems of counting but never settling in one or the other.
By this point he had started to move, slowly, from his spot at the head of the table.
I mean, all the way back in ‘61, at the very start, you see it. Port Authority, which is actually an interstate agency born from the messy cleaving of New York and New Jersey at and on and under the Hudson River and it’s estuaries- this extra and intra legislative bureau, which no one votes on, by the way,it’s all appointees in this uneasy power share alliance between governors- in ‘61, they start making plans for a center for trade in Manhattan at the encouragement if David Rockefeller- but don’t worry, that’s not where I’m going with this, it’s not some Rockefeller-Rothschild-IMF thing, I promise, it’s something else- but anyway by ‘65 the Port Authority has seized wholesale under eminent domain block after block of downtown Manhattan, they called it Radio Row then, and they start blasting it apart. Gone. These shops, storefronts, the center for ham radio, parceled up and shipped off to Canal Street, 45th, the Metrotech. And they replace all that with the megablock. The complex, and it’s two megamachine antennae. The boxes that the Chrysler and Empire State came in, they called them.
His beer glass was slick in his hand. It wasn’t slipping, not yet, but he did have to reach down and readjust, steady it on the flat of his palm. Then he lifted the glass up to eye level. On the other side of the sepia was his girlfriend, at the far end of the table, and a few pale faces, distending in the curve of the glass as they turned to follow him.
I’ll spare you the- finer- points of the towers construction- that’s really its own conversation- But the architect they get, his name is Yamasaki, he’s fresh off the Dhahran Civil Air Terminal in Saudi Arabia, which he built, actually, with the help of the Saudi Binladin Group, the construction conglomerate founded by Mohammed Bin Laden, father of, yes, Osama, which is again not the point I’m trying to make here. There’s a million of these sublexical linkages if you want to find them, pivot tables of facts nesting within other facts, like how Dhahran was itself a proxy battle between the expansionist Truman presidency, who owned and operated the airport and were looking to hold onto an air base in the region, and the Saudi royalty, wary of Western interest in the new petroleum empire coursing everywhere. Or how Yamasaki was deployed as a sort of architectural diplomat at that airport, his pointed concrete arches and delicate latticework lobbies digesting the vocabulary of the two empires into a Jet Age Islamist style, a petro-modernism that he’d use throughout his subsequent projects including, yes, the World Trade, where he modeled the plaza between the towers after the courtyard at Mecca, it’s minarets, he said this, I’m not inventing it, its real. You can see Yamasaki’s Mecca if you watch videos of the World Trade, like I have. I mean, not just the day of, but years before, you know, just people, you can hear birds, even. And you can see the pointed archways at the base of the building, these wide silver cathedral gaps that bend, twine together 27.5 feet up to form the facade that runs the whole way up the building, the facade that leaves only eighteen inches of window space because, get this, Yamasaki was afraid of heights. He bent his Jet Age Islamism into a new shape, merged it with another logic here at the nexus of the financial age, the age of pure fiat- I mean Nixon ended the gold standard in, what ‘71? Futures, equities, logics fusing with further and further logics- none of that matters. Not even the deal the Port Authority made in July 2001 to sell World Trade, all of it, to private investors, a joint deal between two conglomerates, of course, to own and operate the property for the next 99 years- 99! You can look and keep looking, and there will be more fusions, more cleavings, an ever-proliferating world of interchanges.
He had now circled the table fully and was standing next to his girlfriend, who was sitting still in her chair.
I even remember watching them go down, he said, affecting a middle distance stare. Next to him, his girlfriend did the same, looking but not at the cake before her, all lit up with candles that had burned halfway down their length. It happened at the right time for us, he said, us who are just now turning the towers’ final age. An early memory, formative. Right in the middle of that stage, you know, Freud had a term for it, where you’re really realizing how separate you are from your mother. From both your parents. I, of course, was at home, watching with my mother. I remember watching one fall, and then the other. It’s so fixed, you know, so absolute in the timing and the angles. It will always have had happened. It can spill and spill and spill and then it always just. He paused, staring. I’m sorry, I’m off track again. He continued staring, trying to remember something, something that seemed to be just beyond the candles of the cake, beyond the faces of the table and the table itself. Then his eyes returned, and he looked down at his girlfriend. He squeezed her shoulder while raising his mostly empty glass. Well, anyway, he said, here’s to Addison. Happy 28th birthday.
Justin Kamp is a writer and performer in New York. He is working on a collection of short fiction.