Tremendous rain today here on the outermost part of the Cape, and a clearing, a washing, a cleansing of the past week. I have so many questions, wondering what caused two young men to catapult with such pressure to both inflict and receive pain on themselves. Of course we are responsible; if we are not responsible, if we do not accept responsibility, then we fail as a humanist society. There is tremendous, incomprehensible loss, the stolen Friday, the fear and confusion, and the resultant relief when the siege was over.
There is a need to tell the story,the where were you when, because telling a story provides relief for the storyteller and sometimes for the listener, and because it builds bridges between people when we desperately need bridges, to fight loneliness, fear,suffering of soul and heart. My story is simple, removed from the heart of the events, because I was not there, in Boston, when it began. I was on a bus, heading towards Portland, Maine. Monday, I arrived on the 6:30 bus from Provincetown to catch the 1:15 to Portland. I thought maybe I could see the runners, because I would be so close. I took the subway to Park, where I found breakfast at the Clover truck, a place I was curious about. I remember asking the couple in line for a recommendation, chose granola and yogurt though I really just wanted a muffin and coffee, but thinking why not honor their suggestion. The minutia of our lives. I took my food to a table vacated by a smiling mother with her children, but finding it cold in the shade, I moved to a sunnier spot. Finishing, I thought I will walk to Boylston, but I was carrying my suitcase, and the thought of the crush of spectators, but the knowledge that the seats on the sidelines would be filled, made me go into my favorite cafe, and later, head back to South Station for my bus north.
I had read on Sunday at the wonderful Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich, a shop owned and run by several generations of the same family. It is a shop I will return to; I was invited by coincidence because I was looking for a book for my niece and found it there online. Welcomed with enthusiasm and grace, and gave a reading to a group of women who could not have been more generous. We shared stories, and I left with a package of cookies and brownies I took with me to Portland.
An old Work Center friend met me in Portland, and settled me into the old hotel where I would stay, before going off to teach. I thought I would make a mini-vacation in Portland, so booked myself another day, before I would take the early bus back to Boston and Emerson College. I thought I would explore this city, maybe get a therapeutic massage, and write in the hotel. After unpacking, I thought I’d stroll in the neighborhood a bit before the reading I’d give at the University of Southern Maine, but as I crossed the lobby, my phone rang with the first of many updates from my college about the marathon.
I spoke to the concierge at the hotel, I overheard conversations on the street, I found a cafe, found news online, talked some more on the way to the reading. It was baffling, unbelievable, surreal. It was my city, my part-time city, my two days a week plus more city. It was my neighborhood, it was Boylston Street where my brother used to live in a funky apartment building I’d loved, where I imagined, after he’d long moved, that I could live one day, if I were to live in Boston. But my claim to the city was small, fractional.
My reading went very well, and the students were interested, asked great questions about how one manages to keep on writing when the writing becomes difficult, and it was all over too quickly.
The next day, I went back to the cafe, and had a chance to speak to two women who were both affected by the news, and we did what people must do: speak, listen, hug. This is what we must continue to do.
In another post, I will list the pleasures of Portland. In another, the pleasures of Boston. When I returned on Wednesday, the star magnolia trees were already in bloom. My classes, my lovely students, shaken. We went through our day’s work, and I listened to their young voices, reading and talking about their work, with such maturity, such confidence. These are who will tell our stories, who will shape our future.
I returned late to my home, and the surreal calm of the Cape, its beauty, was accented, as I realized that the further you are from a fulcrum of trauma, the more unreal the trauma becomes. Friday, I got up early, readying to go to work. A neighbor called to that Boston was shut down. My city? Couldn’t be. I would be late for my bus, but I listened, thinking, Emerson would call. Emerson did call, a little later. I stayed home, fed apples to the neighboring horses, walked distractedly through town for some errands, and checked in with the news all day.
This morning I awoke to rain, and the news, which was more or less certain last night, that the nineteen year old had been caught. I offer no balm but this: speak, listen, hug.
- On lockdown in Boston (utsandiego.com)