A flirtatious email that I sent on September 11th. Yes, *that* September 11th.

“Where are you from?” I had asked.

“Montana,” he said.

Really? Who’s from Montana? I’m not even sure where that is!” I gurgled, laughing, my East Coast-centric bravado a sorry cover-up for my pervasive sense of my own awkwardness and inferiority. (Arrogance without confidence, perhaps.) This guy could probably herd cattle and harvest wheat, for goodness’ sake, whereas I could still barely decipher a subway map or ask for the nearest bathroom without losing my nerve.

Despite that inelegant beginning and our apparent differences, the guy from Montana and I turned out to be kindred spirits. (He’d even read all the Anne of Green Gables books, despite the jeering of some of his friends, and knew the term ‘kindred spirits.’) It took a long time to discover this, because I became so terrified of saying something stupid in front of him that I said very little at all, and then he moved away.

Later, somehow, we began to exchange emails. Mine were tentative and highly edited, as were his, most of the time, every couple of days for several months. Until one email he sent had just the merest hint of flirtation, and I replied in kind.

A flirtatious email that I sent on September 11th. That September 11th.

When I realized what I’d done, there was no end to my agony and self-flagellation. What kind of person will he think I am? The kind of person who sends flirtatious emails when the city of her birth–the city that is still home to many of her most dearly loved ones–is under attack?

I considered sending a follow-up email to clarify that while I had indeed sent him an email that morning, it was cheery and made no mention of the attacks only because I wasn’t yet aware of the situation. But that would just make me seem out of touch with all that was important, I reasoned: Nero fiddling while Rome burned, or Marie Antoinette.

I didn’t get a reply. Weeks went by, and the email conversation stopped.

{This post is part of Micha Boyett‘s–Mama Monk’s–“One Good Phrase” series. Read the rest here.}

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