IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS (2004) is a comic by Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic artist Art Spiegelman.
05/19/11 | Novel

In the Shadow of No Towers

by Alexander Branson

John F. Kennedy was killed by loneliness. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by loneliness. Jack Ruby died of lung cancer.

Not everything is a metaphor.

Jack Ruby beatified himself with a revolver. Lee Harvey Oswald did it with a bolt-action rifle. The cat ate the canary. There are saints everywhere.

I am cooking scrambled eggs. At first it was an omelet but then I experienced failure. Then I decided that I did not like the color so I added salsa. I am feeling proud of myself for being adventurous as a cook. But I also now remember that it is ten in the morning and I am eating eggs and nothing about that is bold or courageous.

om·e·let /ˈäm(ə)lit/

Noun: A pile of scrambled eggs that has its act together.

On the television there is a war. We are at war in Iraq. They keep replaying the video of the statue of Saddam Hussein being torn down over and over. They are telling us that they are average Iraqis. Occasionally they speak of looting and riots elsewhere.

I am eating my eggs. I am done eating my eggs. I am taking a shower and getting dressed. As I slide my shoes on I realize that I have nowhere to go and slip them off.

The television is still on.

My parents are dead. I stare outside looking for a skyline and see nothing. I am in the middle of rural Missouri. I am going to go drunk driving, I think.

It was the first plane that killed my parents. Now there is a war. They are vaguely related in the fact that the people who killed my parents were brown and the people in Iraq are brown and if you are white and they are brown that it is good enough in a metaphorical sense.

Everything in my apartment was bought by their death and when I look around I see pretty little gravestones from Apple and Sony.

I had a dream that my parents were still alive. There was nothing remarkable about the dream other than dead people were alive in it. I was having dinner with my family and I was eating a pot roast and they were sitting across from me smiling. There was no reference to them being alive again. I think I forgot they were dead. My sister was eating some kind of weird Mexican style lasagna, filled with black beans and rice.

I watch a war on television and remember that they are dead. They. My parents. There are not towers where there once were towers. The statue of Saddam is coming down on television again. Everything is falling down so I stand up. It is a metaphor. But also I am standing now and walking towards my car.

I am driving to the grocery store, I am deciding. I am going to buy groceries.

I walk back into my apartment and put on my shoes and then I leave my apartment for the second time.

All of my actions are framed within the idea that my parents are dead from nine eleven. My sister is now a fundamentalist. She used to drink a lot and then they died and she drank a lot and went to rehab and found God. God was not hiding. Now she is married to some guy and she takes painkillers because my parents’ ghosts are swirling around in her brain. She likes that we are in two wars and she has a bumper sticker on her ninety nine Pontiac that says she supports the troops.

I was in junior high and they pulled me out of class to tell me that some guys flew a plane into my parent’s job. I sat in the principal’s office watching cable news and the billows of smoke bleeding from the towers and the men in dusty suits struggling through everything solid turning into air. I watched the images and said nothing. I did not object when the principal turned off the television.

Everything that was solid was turning into air and my head felt dense and strange and my feet seemed like I was gliding along the ground and that my weight was repositioning itself inside of me to make room for something foreign.

I am in my car driving to the grocery store. I am in the grocery store. I am buying tortillas. I am buying a lot of eggs. I am buying milk and peanut butter. I am buying whiskey. I am looking at scotch. I am thinking about scotch.

Scotch /skäCH/

Noun: Arrogant whiskey.

They brought my sister to school to pick me up and we sat in our empty house and waited for anything to happen.

We don’t know anything, my sister told me. She was crying and I was crying but we weren’t crying. I did not know if they were dead but I did not think that they were alive.

They are still digging people out, my sister told me.

We lived with aunts and uncles.

I am driving home. I am home. My home is an apartment. I am sitting on my couch in my apartment. I feel satisfied with myself for being occupied for an hour. I think wistfully about going to bed and sleeping until I have something to do. I realize that I have nothing to do tomorrow or on most days. Sleeping would not accomplish anything so I do not do it.

I am thinking about going back to college.

My sister calls my phone and I do not answer it. She does not leave a voicemail.

My sister delved headfirst into nationalism. She began to put American flags in places she had not put American flags before. She hugged troops and I went into my room and read conspiracy literature. I got tired of nine eleven conspiracies and started researching the JFK assassination.

Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were the same man. Metaphorically. Not really. They were not a singular person. They were both lonely men craving positive affirmation. Oswald filled this void in his life with communism. Ruby did it with dancing women.

Oswald did it alone.

I watched the video of JFK being shot over and over. I was fifteen years old. My sister called me morbid. She cooked and cleaned as I sat in front of my computer. The bullet was not magic and JFK was not King Arthur.

I am cooking my second meal of the day. It is the same as the first meal. It is an omelet. I am cooking the eggs and flipping it very carefully.

It falls apart.

I turn it into scrambled eggs.