Let's Say: A Place
[This is a short piece I wrote after the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.]
Let’s say there’s a place I’ve lived. Let’s say I lived there in my formative years. Let’s say I spent two years on two blocks on this place–this city–and two years walking its every cranny after that. Let’s say it’s a good city, a sweet city. Let’s say I didn’t appreciate it when I lived there, or did sometimes, but not enough, or did as much as I could, but not as much as I wish I had. Let’s say I live somewhere else now.
Let’s say, one day, something terrible happens in that city. Let’s say people from all over the world have gathered to watch and participate in this big, long, taxing thing–a marathon, let’s say. Let’s say the city shuts down for it every year. Let’s say when I toured the college I attended in this city, it was the day of the city-wide marathon, and I couldn’t see any of the buildings because they were all closed. Let’s say, at the time, it was an endearing inconvenience. Let’s say I went to school there anyway. Back to the terrible thing, though. Let’s say two bombs go off at the finish line of this marathon. Let’s say it’s a marathon that thousands of people are watching. Let’s say I saw pictures of blood spattered everywhere. Let’s say I stayed glued to my phone as the injury count rose higher and higher over the course of the afternoon.
Let’s do away with “let’s say,” because let’s say I’ve done all that as of today.
Boston, my heart hurts for you. When I heard the news, the pain faded into me slowly, the more I read, the more I watched. Two bombs go off on Boylston St., and I walked down that street at least once a day almost every day for two years straight. I ate my lunch on the steps of the Copley Square library. I watched the skateboarders shred the empty fountain pools of Copley Square. I floated down that strip so many late nights feeling invincible and alive. And today I looked at pictures of blood spattered all over the sidewalk.
Boston is a city I know like a past version of myself. I see it lovingly: quaint and quiet, something I wish I could get back to sometimes but know it’s only logical to have moved on. I know those streets like I know my own hands: sometimes not at all and sometimes with a familiarity that does away with the need for sight. It’s just a place, just a street, and yet, when I heard the news, I felt like a stretch of something inside of me had been attacked. I ache for a strip of sidewalk, but that strip of sidewalk forms about 30% of my memories of this place.
Of course I feel for all the people at the sight of the explosion, all the injured, the few dead, all the people who witnessed the carnage, the witnessing of which is its own kind of carnage. I texted every person I cared about who lives in Boston or Cambridge (they’re all fine). But I feel, I honestly, truly feel, at the very core of my being, I feel for that block, for the very cement of its foundation, for the cracks in that cement, for the remnants of the METRO paper that’s been worked into its make-up, for the dirt from the shoes of the people who take the Green Line and get off at Copley Square.
One night, late, in a spring downpour, I ran all the way down Boylston St., past the Four Seasons, past Rattlesnake, past the library, past Mass Ave, past the Fens, all the way to my apartment. I think that was one of the greatest nights of my life. Never did I imagine people running on that very same street for a reason like today’s.