Saturday, March 19, 2011

extra short story: companions

When I was little I wanted to be a writer.  I wrote a LOT, about adventurous girls who joined circuses or ate magical candy bars that sped them into places unknown. Those stories are probably pretty embarrassing to read now, but maybe someday I'll find an old story and post it for you, if you're good.  The older I got, the less I wrote, which I didn't like.  Part of my motivation for (re)starting this blog was to follow through on my new year's resolution to write more, creatively, which can take may many forms, the extra short story being one of them.  This is a work of fiction with some real life details (I'll leave you to decide what those are).


When the woman gets on the train, there is a young boy in a black button down shirt and jeans, yelling and barking. He's not mentally ill, as far as she can tell, he just thinks it's funny to make people uncomfortable by being louder than acceptable on the train. He throws himself on the floor of the train, and the girl who is sitting three seats down from the woman threatens, mostly to herself, that she will stick her umbrella in his eye if he falls on her again. She says this with a lot more curse words. He pretends not to hear, but he doesn't come near her again.

At Haymarket the woman gets off, walking through the North End towards her friend's apartment. This is a night for dating, she sees. It's still warm enough for many of the restaurants to leave the windows open, and there are couples sitting at tables, touching hands or clutching coffee mugs to avoid it. Some of these are probably first dates, she thinks, as she walks by two men in Caffe Vittoria. The one facing her is wearing a jaunty hat and too hip glasses – he is trying hard, she thinks, but she likes it.

Unbidden, the image of the older man who sometimes comes into the coffee shop where she works appears in her mind. She doesn't know much about him, if he's married, or if he hides his money under his mattress, only that they talk about faith and luck. She finds conversations with him interesting, moreso than the dates she's been on, with the guys who can't stop going on about their dead cats or their unwritten screenplays. He is nearly twice her age, but she suddenly wonders if they might ever be seated like this, across a table over gelato.  

At the end of the night, full of gnocchi, she trails sleepily down the steps towards the subway platform, past two men, one who is blind. The man who can see is at the bottom, counting as his friend slowly edges downward. "Three more," he says, watching the cautious movements, "Now two."  On the platform is a boy on a bike, with two girls. One girl says, “Leave me alone!” and moves past him to an alcove, where she hides, but she is smiling. The boy goes after her until only his back tire is sticking out of the alcove. They're talking quietly, and her friend moves a little closer but not too close, leaning against a pole and playing with her phone. She flicks her eyes up every now and then when she hears a giggle or a hush.

There are just a few people left on the train at the woman's stop. She holds her keys in her hand. As she walks away from the station, she thinks for a moment that her car might not be where she's left it, that there might be a blank space on the street instead of her slumped little sedan. But as she gets closer she can see it, sagging to the right where the front tire is leaking, waiting quietly in the lowlit street.

Monday, March 07, 2011

vehicle chronicles, vol. 1

My first car was a 1986 Dodge Aries (a K car, a nice Reliant automobile) that I inherited from my aunt when she passed away.  I already had good memories of it -- my aunt used to park in the back of the church, and at the end of the service, after she stayed to listen to the very end of the postlude to clap for the organist, I would walk her out to the car.  She would slump into it and slam the door, which stuck, and would creak slowly and then close with a loud crack.

My aunt was very smart, very funny, and very blunt, but not in the share-about-your-feelings kind of way.  More in the "ok, it's time for you to go home now, I'm tired of talking to you" kind of way. Once when I was staying at her house she turned off Rags to Riches right in the middle and said, "That's enough TV for you." WHAT?!

But anyway, one Sunday I walked her out to the car and at the door, I said, "You're walking really well, you don't actually need me to walk you out here."

"I know," she said.

"So why do you want me to do it?"

"Because I love you!" she said, and gave me a whack on the cheek, "OK?"

That was the first and only time she told me she loved me.

She passed away in June 1997.  I took her car up to college in the fall.  It was light blue, and it had a bench front seat, so I could fit six people in the car with seat belts, which made me a popular driver.  The car was old, but it didn't have a lot of miles on it because my aunt only ever took it to church or the store.

Once my friends and I drove up to this truck stop diner that was open 24 hours and basically the only option for excitement when you're at school in central Maine and you don't drink alcohol.  As we were getting out of the car, a young guy getting out of his car stopped and pointed to the Colby College sticker I had on the back window.  "You guys go to Colby?" he said.

"Yeah...." I said.

"I thought all Colby kids drove Beamers and Benzes!" he said, looking admiringly at us.

"Not this Colby kid," I said.

"That's awesome," he said, and then knelt down in front of me, "YOU'RE awesome.  Will you marry me?"

Midnight, late 90s, at a truck stop in central Maine, while I was wearing sweatpants -- my first marriage proposal.  I said no.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

the REAL pros and cons of living in Boston

It has come to my attention that there is a lot of traffic to this blog from the google search "pros and cons of living in Boston," which leads people to this post, which is, sad to say, mostly about how I like to wear slippers.  For some reason, that post is like the 5th result of the above google search, which is probably due to some crazy math algorithms I don't understand.  I am actually amazed I spelled algorithm right on the first try.

I feel sorry for those people, so here is an ACTUAL post about the pros and cons of living in Boston.  Bear in mind that is coming from a native's perspective.

Things I love about Boston
1. Small in size.  In Boston, if I am lost (which has happened often), and I find a street I recognize, I can turn down it, and it won't take too long to get somewhere helpful.  I tried that technique once in Chicago and ended up an hour away on the opposite side of the city.

2. Dunkin Donuts everywhere.  Mmmmm, iced coffee.

3. Public transportation is relatively cheap

4. You can get away from the city without too much hassle. The ocean is easily accessible, as are trees and other such outdoor prettiness

5. Something for everyone. Sports if you're into that.  Culture (museums, musicals, symphony, universities, live music, libraries) if you're into that.  History, if you're into that.  Progressive politics, if you're into that.

6. Seasons.  I lived in New Jersey for two years, and I actually was sad about the mild winters (and rolled my eyes the time school was cancelled for two inches of snow).  I like that as soon as you're getting tired of one season, the next one is creeping in.

7. "I got her numbah -- how do you like them apples?"

Things I'm not as excited about:
1. People do drive kinda crazily. I'll admit it.

2. Things close down early.  The T stops between midnight and one, bars/clubs between one and two.  You're hard pressed to find something open 24 hours that's not a Dunkin Donuts (not a bad thing, see above).  However, this does not bother me as much now as it did when I was younger.  Now I'm like, "Oh, it's closing!  Guess I have no choice but to go home and snuggle under my covers!"

3. We still have work to do: For all of our progressive politics, there is still a lot of segregation and division in the city.  Between races, Boston natives and people who come for work/school, and especially between economic classes.  You can get on a subway car at one end of the city and ride it into another and see the demographics change entirely.

4. Stuff's expensive.  I don't really have a lot to compare this to, because I've only ever lived in cities, but my friends who live in smaller towns are always like, "My rent is $20!" Not the case in the Bean.

5. It's REALLY hard to give directions. Boston streets are NOT on a grid system. One time a guy pulled over in Hyde Park (where I live) and asked me how to get to the Prudential (the absurdity of this will make more sense to people familiar with Boston).  In my head I was thinking, "Park and take the Orange Line." (I am torn about whether or not this is really a con: see below)

Things people say about Boston that I beg to differ with:
1. "People are unfriendly!"  We're not unfriendly, we're just cautious.  Why are you saying hi to me if you don't know me?  Sometimes you're being courteous, sometimes you want me to sign onto your crazy website that has pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache.  I'm just sayin'

If you want an in, however, crazy-website people, Bostonians will ALWAYS talk about the weather.

2. "It's so difficult to navigate!"  I will admit, it's easy to get lost in Boston.  But that's only because the city has so much character!  No grids here, the streets are old cow paths (source of information: my dad).  The first weekend I lived in Chicago, I parked like 8 blocks away from my apartment because everything looked so similar there.  That will never happen in Boston!

Final Verdict: 
 I like it here.  Maybe you will too. :)