911: Cannot Compute

by Jamal Sharif

Iím stuck. Canít write anything creative to save my life. Thereís just entirely too much trauma going down. If you wanna know the truth, this black chickís just barely hanginí on.

Word has it, a recent poll shows that 7 out of 10 Americans report feeling Ďanxious, immobilized, and/or depressedí as a result of the recent tragedies.

Yeah? Getouttahere.

For the last ten days, I myself have been the victim of a barely tolerable, very mellow, soul-engulfing funk. Iíve watched the horror of the attacks and its aftermath in complete and absolute emotional paralysis. Aside from that, Iíve done little more than drag to work and come back, feed and bathe my kids, then fall asleep ingesting CNNís coverage on America Attacked, America on Alert, America Unites, America and the New War, or whatever the catch phrase headline was for that particular hour. And thatís on a good day.

Yeah, itís pretty bad. Let me run it down.

Since 9/11, Iím just drained, mostly. Performing the daily, routine tasks leave me utterly depleted. I canít concentrate or remember simple things. Like what day it is, or the secret passcode to my voicemail, or whether I paid the electric bill.

Perhaps I really donít care.

The everyday verbal exchanges have also left me struggling for air. People try to be kind, to gain insight on my uncharacteristically subdued state. Yes, I inform them, all of my friends & relatives in NY and DC are alive. No, I donít personally know anyone who lost his or her life. Jesus Christ, did I need to?

Yes, Iím pretty sure - Iím not fine. And to the folks who cheerfully profess that they are, well, I donít know if I can be around you. I almost used a head of lettuce as a weapon the other night in the grocery store, when I found myself surrounded by people too eagerly discussing the new fall lineup on the WB.

Who are these people?

The other conversations Iíve had or heard make me want to do one of the following things: (1)Wrap my arms around another hurting human being, or (2) violently rake some foolís skull across a long, jagged strip of asphalt.

Folks are worried about the terrorists among us? Iím more fearful of the ignorant, uninformed, foaming at the mouth, apple pie eating bigots and retards among us.

Somebody please, gimme a break.


I almost feel guilty to be alive and feeling so glum. Then I feel guilty about feeling guilty. Then I just droop my head into my hands and pray, until I feel I can get through the next hour.

I donít much feel like talking. (which makes everyone nervous) Iíve been ignoring the phone, which seems to be ringing non-stop since last week. Oh yeah, and Iím overly anxious. Nerves is straight shot. My obsessive/compulsive traits have really spiraled out of control. Three nights ago I cleaned my entire house (closets & toilets included), rearranged the furniture, then fell asleep on the floor. Sure, Iíve had some light moments, but havenít felt myself laugh in a way thatís comforting or familiar.

Shit just looks and feels different. Life goes on around me in a warped, slow motion, dream-like state. What is this going Ďback to normalí folks keep talking about? There will be no more Ďnormalí, as we knew it, ever again. This whole ugly mess has left me unable to put into accurate words, let alone write about, the images of destruction, pain, anger, and helplessness Iíve absorbed.

Iím lost. Floundering.

Iíve tried to do other things, hoping to snap myself out of it.

Iíve stuffed my face. Sat on the sofa and thought about exercising. Listened to music really, really loud. Iíve put on bright lipstick and my favorite pair of boots and tried to pretend like I wasnít trippiní. My coverís blown, though, from the moment I begin to speak. This emotional disturbance Iím experiencing causes me to cuss an awful fucking lot. Which is bad, because I cuss a fucking awful lot already.

I even took the advice of the head honcho in the hot seat whom I didnít vote for Ė yes, at the urging of ole Dubya Jr., I went shopping. Bought a few outfits. Some shoes. And a purse. And a jacket. Felt no better. Which really leaves me at a crossroads, cause up till now, there wasnít a damn thing a few hours in the mall wouldnít fix.

I guess my life, like the world, is very different now. What happened last Tuesday is unthinkable. Try as I might, I canít seem to get my arms around this one.

I havenít cried. Mainly because I donít trust myself. My emotions are dreadfully profuse and quite frankly, unpredictable and sloppy. Iíve gotten teary eyed just watching an airplane drift past me, over the city and toward the Pacific. If I allow myself to give in & feel the pain of six thousand halted souls, the anguish of their loved ones, and the messiness of this impending Ďnew war,í I might not come around till next Christmas.

Believe me, itís a curse. The curse of caring, of feeling too much, of understanding pain, of giving a damn.

Creativity heightens our empathetic vibes, a friend & fellow writer reminded me when thoroughly getting in my stuff, after I told him Iíd been too upset to write. It makes us feel things more deeply. It is both a gift and a curse, to feel people's joy and painÖwe take it on as our own, and help them work through it by working through it ourselves.

SoÖIíve been trying. Trying to come out of hiding and come clean. Trying to honor what I feel, in my need to say hey, Iím really messed up over all this. Scared. Worried. Pissed the fuck off. Denial Ďaint the way to go with this one. I need to talk, argue, listen, ponder, rage, and weep.

And since Iíve been speaking my peace, others have checked in, too. To admit theyíre feeling worked over, too. We tell each other about it. Weíve discovered weíre not alone. Or, at least weíre alone together. In sadness and confusion, together. And where there is togetherness, there is strength. It doesnít remove the pain. But itís a start.

Writing this took a lot out of me. All the while, I had to repeat the words my friend said to me:

We writers help others work through it, by working though it ourselves.

We writers help others work through it, by working though it ourselves.

These fragile, rambling, personal thoughts are the most I can offer right now.

But hang on. Iím working on it.

God help me, Iím trying.


911: Cannot Compute by Jamal Sharif

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