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My Own Private September 11th
By Susan Isaacs

Most of us remember exactly what we were doing on September 11, the moment the planes hit the World Trade Center. Well, if you were in L.A., you were still asleep. I was an actor in New York; I was also still asleep. What's hard for me to remember is what I was doing the weekend before. Not because I can't, but because the details could have haunted me for the rest of my life.

The weekend before 9/11, I went on vacation to Miami with my boyfriend of one year. Neither Jack nor I had dated anyone that long, so we decided to celebrate: go somewhere new, lounge on a beach, watch Cuban men play dominoes. And we could stop arguing.

Jack blamed our arguments on us both being competitive. I blamed them on him being an ass. Jack was critical and controlling; but he was also thoughtful and sensitive, and really hot. And I thought a weekend away could help him relax and get back to being the thoughtful, sensitive, hot guy he was when we first met.

Jack took care of everything. He bought us a cheap, non-refundable airline and hotel package on Expedia. He wouldn't even let me get the rental car. Not because he didn't want me to pay for anything but because, in his words, "I don't want you to screw anything up!"

I was secretly pleased when the hotel in Miami turned out to be a dump. It was a 1980s concrete block, built on top of a shopping center that had shut down some time after Miami Vice got cancelled. You could stare over the hotel balcony down into the abandoned mall. A cement disk sat where a carousel had been yanked out. A busted sign read "Miami Moment's." With an apostrophe. There was nothing left but concrete and echoes. And there was nothing left at the hotel, except a bankruptcy seminar, a Landmark Forum meeting, and suckers who booked through

Our room was decorated in pressboard and pastel and smelled of Lysol and B.O. "They say we have a water view," Jack said as he opened the drapes. It was a view of the retaining wall of the bridge that went to Miami Beach. Jack shrugged. "Well, at least we're freeway close."

I suggested we exercise our logistical privilege and take the bridge to South Beach. We slogged through the humidity, past art deco hotels and tourists taking pictures of the place where Versace got shot. We sought relief in an air-conditioned restaurant. Not that it was going to be relaxing. Jack was hyper-vigilant about restaurants. He only sat in far corner booths, back to the wall, eyes to the door, like he was in the witness protection program. And he was Danish.

"Don't get the omelet," Jack whispered nervously. "Get a salad and we'll share."

"Okay, how about the Turkey Cobb Ranch?" I suggested.

Jack huffed. "I hate cheese. I hate things that are creamy. I like things that are clear."

"Sorry they don't make clear meat."

"Look, I'm having a hard time relaxing," he pleaded.

"Yeah, I get that."

"No you don't!" I followed Jack's eyes. A group of gay men clucked at him.

Jack simmered. "I feel like a piece of meat."

"Well you're my piece of meat," I kissed him.

Jack jumped up. "Let's get out of here."

But there wasn't anywhere to go. Outside it was hot and muggy, and inside there was little to do if you weren't into drugs or bars. So, we got cranky and fought: over the way I drove the car, over who should reload the camera, over whether it was OK for me to answer my cell phone.

"This is a vacation," Jack growled. "You're not supposed to talk to other people!"

"Is that an Expedia rule?" I growled back.

"If you need to talk to your friends, maybe we shouldn't have come."

"Maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we shouldn't be dating!"

Jack was silent. I almost felt bad for saying it.

"I just want to feel important in your life."

"Jack, you are important. I haven't gone on a vacation with a guy, ever. I haven't had a weekend with a girl friend since we started dating."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

I was exhausted, and we'd only been there 24 hours.

I took a nap and woke up to three-dozen Gerber daisies on the pressboard nightstand. Jack sat on the bed and touched my face. "Dinner on me. Anywhere you like."

Jack took me to a really nice seafood restaurant with a real nice water view. He bought me a nice salmon dinner. Which we shared. It was lovely. Until the waiter brought us the key lime pie.

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