In the Stillness
Author:Andrea Randall

Lucas was a childhood friend of Ryker’s who went to Westfield State. He was also in the National Guard, which seemed like a really good idea in June of 2000 when they graduated high school.


In all honesty, all “National Guard” meant to me, as far as Ryker was concerned, was it forced us to have one sexless weekend a month. That summer, I stayed in South Hadley, rather than returning home to Pennsylvania, because I’d gotten an internship. That’s what I told my parents anyway. In reality, I took enough classes to keep my dorm room for the summer, and I busted ass tending bar at Rafter’s Sports Bar. All in the name of Ryker Manning.


He was taking classes, too. He was a poly-sci major at Amherst and wanted to go into legislation. He spent that summer interning for the local government. I was able to sneak him away at the beginning of August for a Dave Matthews Band concert in Hartford, CT. Tosha and Lucas outright refused to go—they hated DMB. Ryker wasn’t crazy about them, either. But, he was crazy enough about me to go.


He kind of stood with his hands in his pockets and nodded along to most of the songs, but when they played “The Space Between”—a new song of theirs at the time—and I went nuts, he laughed.


“Shh!” I scolded playfully. “Just listen.”


By the end of the song he was standing behind me with his arms wrapped around my shoulders, and I was swallowed up in his massive arms. We swayed to the music as his lips rested on the top of my head. It’s my favorite memory of Ryker Manning, August 3, 2001.


In the two weeks leading up to September 11th, Ryker and I hadn’t seen much of each other, as classes were getting underway and we were both workaholics. It was a gorgeous Tuesday morning. I was putting in some work study time at the campus library when someone said, “A plane crashed between the Twin Towers.” We all kind of looked around with a wow, that sucks look on our faces.


The next thirty minutes are seared into my brain in snippets as people ran in and out of the library.


“Was it a passenger plane?”


“Oh, it was a plane in one of the towers, not between them. Shit, another plane just crashed into the second tower.”


“This is no accident.”


“Guys, a plane just hit the Pentagon, and apparently one has gone down somewhere else.”


“This is an attack.”


“We’re going to war.”


“Holy shit! One of the towers fell!”


Without permission, I grabbed my bag and ran from the library, got into my car, and sped along the curves of 116 straight to Ryker’s dorm. I didn’t even have a cell phone yet. I didn’t call my parents, I didn’t call my friends; I just drove straight to Ryker.


Amherst was a total shitshow, as usual when anything even mildly political happens. People were crying on the sidewalk, asking questions and clutching cell phones. I sprinted up the steps to Ryker’s dorm building. I ran down the hallway, and before heading up the stairs I saw him; he was with his friends and suite mates in the common area watching the news.


“Ryker,” I said just a hair above a whisper.


He’d been sitting with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped together, staring intently at the TV. When he heard my voice, his head whipped around and he sprang to his feet and jogged toward me. As soon as our bodies connected, I started crying. I’d listened to the news on the car radio the whole drive over. There were millions more questions than answers still, but all the answers were bad. Really bad. I saw Lucas out of the corner of my eye, which struck me as odd since his school was a half hour away.


“It’s gonna be okay, Nat,” he whispered in my ear.


Up until that moment we’d been having great sex, laughing at Lucas’s lame attempts to pick up women, and having a genuine good time together. That moment sealed us together in ways I still can’t describe. At the time, I thought he was telling me I’d be okay. That we would collectively be okay. It wasn’t until he was over there that I realized he had been preparing me for what was to come.




My cell phone rings, cosmically protecting me from the rest of that memory. For now.


“Hello?” I sniff and run a finger under my eye.


“Nat? You okay? You sound like you’re crying.”


“Eric, please don’t call me Nat.”


Especially not today.


“Sorry. Just checking in.”


Seriously? I get a whole day to myself and he has to call me? The war-cries of 4-year-old boys in the background are the real reason for the call.


“It’s gorgeous out, Eric, why don’t you take the boys to a playground. Let them run that out. Hell, take them down to the football field for all I care. I gotta go.” Annoyed, I click the phone off and stare at the polished granite.


Lucas J. Fisher