My wife, Deborah, bought me a piece of cheesecake yesterday. The market she goes to sells individual pieces of cheesecake in clear plastic boxes.
"Look," she said happily as we put the groceries away. "I got you a piece of cheesecake."
She's always doing that kind of thing.
"I got that barbecue sauce you like," she'll say, breezing in from the store.
I buy her little things, too. Flowers. Macaroons from the bakery. A bottle of wine.
When the anniversary of Sept. 11 comes around, I think of all those little things.
As Christmas comes closer, I buy presents for my wife, and I stash them in the back of my closet. I buy a lot of the presents online.
"If there's a package on the front porch when you get home, don't look at it," I tell her. "You can bring it in, but don't look at the label."
And she says the same thing to me.
On the day the towers fell, some guy on an upper floor was planning to pick up a pair of diamond earrings on his lunch hour. His wife's birthday was coming.
And a woman two floors down called her husband.
"I haven't even had my coffee yet, but do you feel like Chinese food tonight? I keep thinking about crab Rangoon. I can get it on the way home," she said.
"Sure," he said. "Get me the chicken in garlic sauce."
And in a closet, somewhere out in the suburbs, a child's birthday presents were hidden.
In a woman's dresser, in the drawer with the underwear, was a small velvet box with a pair of cuff links in it, cuff links engraved with a man's last initial. Their anniversary was next week.
And in a man's dresser, shoved behind his socks, was a pale blue box containing lingerie. It was their anniversary next week.
And a woman stopped on the way to work for a blueberry muffin and coffee, but she also bought a half dozen bagels.
"I bought you those bagels you like," she would have said happily that night, out in New Jersey, clacking into the house in high heels.
The bagels were never eaten. The lingerie stayed in the back of the man's sock drawer until, a year later, she cleaned out his dresser and found the pale blue box, opened it and shook with crying.
The diamond earrings went back into stock after three months.
All those quiet little songs of love stopped that morning, every gift un-given, every surprise ruined, every little note of laughter covered in ashes and tears.
"I'll meet you for a drink after work," she told him as she buttoned her uniform shirt. She was fresh out of bed and still smelled a little like sleep.
He kissed his daughter before he went to the station house.
"I'll take you for ice cream Saturday," he said.
"You know what?" she said, buying her morning coffee. "Give me a slice of cheesecake, too."
She wanted to give it to him that night.
"I got that cheesecake you like," she'd say.
"The cherry cheesecake?" he'd ask.
"Of course," she'd say. "I know which one you like."
And she did know. She knew then. She knows now. None of us can forget, not on earth or in heaven.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns is called, "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.