The Return Of The Army Of Light – Excerpt – Inspired by The King and I: Finale Ultimo
When I woke up one clear Tuesday morning in late summer of 2001, Anwaar was already gone to the bond-trading firm downtown where he worked. I went on with my daily routine; a visit to the gym at 80th and Broadway on the Upper West Side, a double-toasted bagel from the shop below the gym, and a quick ride on the number 1 to work. By the time I came out to Chambers Street at 9:05, the world, my world, had changed forever.
Still not knowing what was happening, I heard my mobile go off. It was Anwaar.
“I’m not sure what’s going on; many have left the building already.” Anwaar said somehow calmed.
“I can see you’re building from where I’m standing. There is a big fire below your office. What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“Yes. They have told us not to go down on our own, to stay put.” The call was cut off.
From the corner of Chambers and West Broadway, I could see flames and smoke coming out of the two towers.
My mobile went off again.
“This is bad. It doesn’t seem anybody is coming to help.” Anwaar’s voice had changed.
“Surely somebody will come, they have to do something. They won’t abandon you there.” I said calmly, even though my heart was racing fast. I could hear other voices and cries in the background.
“I love you so much.” Anwaar’s voice was breaking.
“No. Don’t do that!” I cried over the phone. “You’re going to be okay. They can’t let you die … they’ll do something. No, I’m not saying good bye!”
“This is not scientific.[i]” He said with a fake South East Asian accent. “I know when I die or do not die.” He awkwardly laughed.
We often joked about which one would be the first to quote from The King and I death scene, although we never imagined it would be this soon, or in this manner. We were so young and still had so many plans for our future.
I could hear him sob. “I don’t want to die.” His voice broke. “I don’t want to be apart from you.”
“I’m not sure what I’ll do without you.” I knew there was no point in saying that everything would be fine. We had to say goodbye.
“You are going to be okay.” Even at this moment he worried about me. “Promise me you’ll go on living. Life doesn’t have to stop for you. Please, promise me.” Anwaar said between sobs.
“We shouldn’t talk about that.”
“Lucas, please; listen to me.” Anwaar raised his voice. “Life doesn’t have to stop for you. You must go on!”
“Okay, I promise. I will. I will live.” I said, but at that moment, I felt my life had ended too.
Allahu Akbar! – God is great; Anwaar calmly said and then all communication was cut off. I could not reach him again.
Minutes later, as I stood in the middle of the street, with my mobile pressed against my chest, I saw how the building began to dissolve underneath it. A large cloud of smoke, dust and debris lifted to the air as the building collapsed. A sea of people came running up the street. A barefoot middle-aged woman came towards me. “Gots to be going boyfriend.” She grabbed my arm. “Feet don’t fail us now,” she clamoured, and we started to run away from the grey wave of wreckage that the collapsed building had caused. Cops shouted: “Keep moving! Move up! The other building is coming down!” However, their cries were drowned by the sound of sirens of fire trucks and ambulances going south.
After four blocks, I slowed down and turned around; the cloud was starting to dissipate, the building was gone. I stood on one corner and cried. I still had my mobile clenched against my chest, as if trying to keep my last moments with Anwaar near my heart.
“He’s dead. He was in that building.” I quietly sobbed. “My partner is dead.”
The woman hugged me. “We need to keep moving.” She took a pair of flat shoes out of her banana coloured shoulder bag and put them on. “Come on; let’s get you home, honey.” She said as we started our way up West Broadway.
[i] HAMMERSTEIN II, Oscar & RODGERS, Richard (1951) The King and I. Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization