There’s a famous sign in Boston that sits along a traffic clogged stretch of road leading to the bridges and highways out of the city. The sign says: “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now.” That’s one of the places I lived in Boston.
On the same day in 2005 when I found out my boyfriend fucked my best friend from college I ran into him on Boylston street, a few blocks away from the Boston Marathon finish line. My anger was as physical as an element, carbon, titanium, rage. I slapped him very hard. He said, I’m sorry. I hit him again. Afterwards I had three martinis at the Charlesmark, the same hotel where they found the lid of a pressure cooker on the roof.
My roommate and I were once locked out of our Allston apartment. A pair of burly Irish boys broke the glass of our screen door and carried us over the shards. Later we had a party there and a stack of red plastic cups caught fire in the kitchen. I picked them up, threw them in the sink, and ran the water. It doesn’t make any sense, but I didn’t burn my hand. Someone stole $80 out of my wallet that night.
I fought with a different boyfriend on West Cedar Street in Beacon Hill, gas lamps overhead cobblestones underfoot. I was so drunk that I was seeing double. I cried and he walked away.
At the site of the second bombing there’s now a restaurant called Forum. It used to be a place called Vox where I spent nearly every Saturday night for two years. It was the post Sex and the City-era. The gimmick was martinis. My martini budget was $40 per Saturday. My friends were once kicked out for smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. The food was not very good.
The only time that I’ve fainted in my life was on the Green Line on my morning commute. I opened my eyes to a guy holding me up. I said, I think I fainted. He said, Me too. When I got to work the paralegal ladies at the office next door fed me cookies.
In 2006 and I was a juror on a trial for a murder that happened in 1985. The victim was shot in the carotid artery. The crime scene photos were more horrific than I hope you can imagine. Arterial spray, gunpowder residue, ballistics, crack cocaine. I thought the defendant was guilty but I was selected as an alternate juror which means that I didn’t get to deliberate. The jury acquitted him. The defendant was left-handed and wore a black suit with bright white basketball shoes.
I liked to read the New York Times on the Esplanade on twinkling summer days, hot breeze, sailboats, rosé in the shade. There were lots of house parties in Charlestown, girls with crunchy hair gel smoking Newport Lights and up-to-no-good thuggish boyfriends playing video games in the basement. Baby showers in Milton. A frigid roofdeck Halloween party in Southie. Bud Lights with Irish contractors deep in Brighton at 4am. A cocktail party at the UK Consul’s Beacon Hill residence, gin and tonics and paintings of hunting dogs. And Marathon Monday, of course, beers in the filthy Pour House, grimacing at bleeding nipples.
My first job after college was in government affairs out of an office on Winter Street. Imagine the skeeziest motherfucker you can, greasy, tubby, cheap. That was my boss. Then I was Campaign Director for a State Representative race in the suburbs. My office was in the basement of the candidate’s lunatic mother’s house. We won every precinct in both the primary and general elections. I got a master’s degree at Suffolk University which you’ve never heard of because it’s the least consequential university in the world. I worked as a temp. Lawyers yelled at me downtown and I read books and accidentally hung up on people in the office parks off I-495. Then I did data entry at a startup, which somehow lead me to where I am today in San Francisco.
It’s true that Boston never leaves you. It is indeed a city where one comes of age. But it’s scrubby, it’s nasty, it must be possessed. Boylston Street is mine. That shithole in Allston that we almost burned down is mine. The parties and the schizophrenic weather, the cheap cigarettes and the cheap beer, the townie mean girls, the shitty relationships, the shitty flavored coffee, the shitty martinis. And the Marathon. Of course the Marathon. The Marathon is mine.
Boston is mine the way that my tendons and kneecaps are mine.
Boston is not in my blood. It is under my fingernails.