Two days and I still haven’t been down to Boston.
Not uncommon: I live across the river, by the Somerville / Cambridge line. We have coffee shops and restaurants and libraries and gyms and bookstores enough, and once those are accounted for I’m content to shuttle from one to the other to the other as the mood takes me. I used to work in Seaport, but these days I only take the Red Line across the Charles to meet my wife after work, for drinks or a show. I was born near here, but I only returned a few years back. I’m nothing like a native, haven’t even assimilated much—like Shen Fu, I live in the floating world.
So I haven’t been to Boston in a while, and certainly not in the last two days.
I went down to MIT this afternoon to meet friends who have been out of the country for the last few months. Lots of National Guard at the subway station, which confused me at first, before I remembered. Like normal friends long-separated we talked about everything, which means, of course, that we talked about the marathon. One knew a woman who was hurt, badly. The other had trouble making it into the city this morning because of a bomb scare on the Framingham line. The city shut down cell service, apparently, but you could still send and receive texts. This didn’t make much sense to us.
About when it was time for me to leave, we received word that Kendall Square might be evacuated. Another scare, maybe, or just procedure. People coughed on the subway, on the outbound ride. I could hear the movement of their feet. Can I always hear the movement of their feet? Do people always cough that much on subways? Or were the voices gone?
A pen is like a knife; to observe is to cut. That classic move, choreographed like an aikido sword form: step back from whatever, let the experience rush in, then slice it into manageable chunks. But selection matters, and the slices that first occur to us are no more true than any. They are just the closest echo of our minds’ diseases.
Today was the first day that felt like Spring—that being the first day the sky doesn’t intimidate you into bringing a jacket that zips or buttons up, the first day you don’t feel the weather’s other shoe about to drop. Leaving the house this morning I saw an honest-to-God robin eating an honest-to-god worm, which I don’t remember ever seeing before, with my own eyes. In Davis Square a man played acoustic guitar through an amplifier under budding trees, and in the T stop there a toddler danced on the counter of her father’s snack stand, singing tunelessly along. And people did talk on the subway, and argue, and laugh, and my friends did return from their adventures with plans for more, and people reach out to one another in a thousand subtle ways. Brick buildings shine bronze in sunset. Across the bridge near Alewife station, the lane of traffic bound toward the Concord Pike was stop and go traffic, almost every car inhabited by a single driver. Up the opposing, empty, lane a motorcycle zipped, two people on its back, her arms around his waist. All that’s there, and it’s real.
But I will go to Boston, soon.