One month and two blocks ago, I was at the site of the “twin explosions,” as were many writers, AWP attendees. Anne and I joked, looking down on Boylston Street from the hotel window as bits of snow fell from Storm Saturn that we teased in all our western-New York toughness, that this? This was what they were afraid of? After a couple of minutes, we skeptically bundled up for our walk to the conference center. The wind blew us to the center–I grabbed hold of a lamp-post to keep from stumbling into traffic. Anne turned, letting the wind pummel her back, the air holding her up. We laughed and squealed like little girls and that’s what we felt like when we got to the conference. We recognized that our lake winds were not ocean winds.
Today, I walk into my parents’ house with three Wegmans’ subs tucked under my arm. My four-year-old meets me at their screen door.
“Mom, there are bombs all over Boston,” he says. “Every human is dead.”
Good lord, I think. Are they letting him watch Sponge Bob again?
My mom tells me what’s already broadcasted all over Facebook, all over the news, behind the WordPress window I type in now.
The horrors we have to hide from our children. How do we know when it’s okay for them to look?
We wait to find out what will happen next. My son hears bits before my parents can change the channel to the Jodi Arias trial. A leg flown through the air. Two people dead. He knows I was in Boston not long ago.
He says, “Mom, I was hiding in your bags when you went to Boston. You never knew it.”
My father bites into his ham sub, he remembers air-raids, underground bunkers, but never a marathon of tragedies, an ongoing battle we don’t know we’re fighting until it’s lost. Two years ago today, his father died. He’s thankful his father misses this, and then looks at my sons, who never miss a thing.
Anne and I learned quickly that Boston was no joke. We gave in, we took the train to the conference center when the snow fell like wet lint around us, and admitted we needed the scarves and mittens we’d packed.
The night before we left, we stood beneath the city waiting on something called the T, and I looked at the couple on a bench a few feet away, cuddling. It could have been their first date, or their last date. The next day they could be enemies, or just friends, or married. I was wondering what a life it must be, to live waiting for a train, waiting for a cab, negotiating all those buildings to get to your friends. We had walked the same six blocks on Boston’s Boylston Street during the past week, wishing Nordstrom Rack had been open while we were there, stopping for sale boots or glasses of wine, missing our children at home, who were waiting for us to come back, one long train ride away.
We were romanced for a week by a city in heat, a city with secrets unknowable to its own stone steps, a city with a secret, waiting for a moment that will never be right.