An Old Dictionary

Slowly, like the indescribable movement of glaciers, do I become aware that all the things that tie me to my time are wearing thin and vanishing. All the tiny portions of existence that, over the course of my short life, I have taken for granted, are far away, or gone--vanished from this earth as if they never were.

As a little kid, don't remember how old, I received from a neighbour a stunning birthday present: a gigantic, hard-cover Webster's dictionary. I was a bookish kid, cerebral in a roughshod way, and enjoyed reading it. It was an encyclopedic type of dictionary as well. If you looked up Canada you would be provided with deliberate facts hewn from what could clearly be a longer work: country, 24,000,000 people (at the time). Has a prime-minister and governor-general. There were added sections at the back of the dictionary.

The first of these supplements was dedicated to the American presidents, all the way up to the present. (At the time, the man who held the office was Ronald Reagan. His vice-president was George Bush. Not mentioned was the vice-president's son, George W. Bush) After that came a coloured section containing the flags of all the countries of the world. It included the flags of the U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia, East and West Germany, and Cyprus. After that there was a section detailing the United States and Soviet space programs. This section was highly detailed, with comprehensive lists of theirrespective orbiters, landers, satellites, and space shuttles. I don't know where this dictionary went, but it enumerated my life as it used to be, easily divided into a working point-form.

I remember so much of my life, but one of my fondest memories as a child was standing at the very foot of the World Trade Center. I don't remember how old I was. I was absolutely in awe of these two buildings, tops touching heaven, and I clearly recall thinking something to the effect of, "Wow, people actually built these things." Unfortunately, some years later someone crashed airplanes into them causing them to fall, stripping me of any chance I may have had to feel small again.

I guess I'd always assumed that the World Trade Center would always be there, like Stonehenge or The Great Pyramid of Giza. Instead, the World Trade Center has sort of become the Colossus of Rhodes--destroyed by someone, somewhere--who really knows why? At this point in my life I started to realize that the tethers preventing me from floating away were beginning to unravel. It was not, and is not, a pleasant feeling.

I have vague, blurry snapshots of memories from my childhood, regarding the hi-jacking of planes. They remained stored in my brain for years and years until someone, somewhere blew up the World Trade Center. I suppose that hi-jacking seemed so impractical to me, ultimately, that I never gave the idea as a whole any bona fide credence. It always seemed to me that maybe a bomb, carefully constructed and hidden, would be a better way to get a terrorist message across. Why hijack anything? You're only going to get caught. Another one of the assumptions I stupidly made in my life.

We lost Pioneer 10 a little while ago. In that old dictionary, Pioneer 10 was well-documented. There was a photo of Carl Sagan's gold plaque on the side. It is now hurtling through the void at incredible speed. Maybe it'll reach Aldebaran, maybe it won't. Nowhere in my dictionary did it say anything to the effect of "We will lose contact with Pioneer 10 on January 22, 2003". Nowhere did it say "The World Trade Center will be attacked on September 11, 2001". For that matter, it didn't say a thing about the Berlin Wall falling, the Gulf War, the internet.

Today, I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop: what next? I didn't truly expect another war in the middle east. I expected that all the parties in the news--the United States, the United Nations, Iraq, whoever else--were just posturing, inflating their bodies, flattening their necks. Look at me, I just might strike...but I probably won't. But I might! I feel like Pioneer 10 today. Floating out into the void, eyes growing dim, no longer able to send data. Floating into a sea of black so vast that I no longer truly know where I am, or where you are.