Today, last year.
I read something today, in the wake of the marathon blast, that said that you are not “from” Boston you are “of” Boston, like you come peeling out of its womb, genetically connected. Everything about me is Boston: the way I dress, the speed at which I speak, my affinity for shitty iced coffee, and the way I hold my friends close. That’s all a direct result of the place I grew up. Boston shapes you; it makes you sharp and soft at the same time. And even though I haven’t really lived in Massachusetts since I was 17, I am still “of” Boston. I live now the farthest parallel distance possible from Boston, if you’re trying to stay in the country, but I almost took down a California surfer over the word Masshole this summer.
So yesterday, when I was in Canada with a phone that didn’t work, and pieces of the news started to break through, I was almost more confused than I was shocked or angry or worried. I know that acts of terrorism, at their core, are rooted in shock and senselessness. I’m not sure why you would ever do something like that, but I have no idea why you would do something like that there. Boston isn’t a place to be fucked with. It’s the mean kid in middle school, it doesn’t take shit. It won’t, and it didn’t. Yesterday, people ran back into the explosion. But a bomb in Boston, like a bomb anywhere, I’m sure, shook my worldview. It‘s like the first time you see your parents cry and you have the deep gut sense that the universe may not be as stable as you thought it was. That things maybe aren’t always OK. I’m not trying to be maudlin about bombings, or terrorism, and I know a lot of places have had it worse, but this time it was my place. And I was very far away.
I drove south, pushing for the border, trying to get back into American cell phone range so I could get phone calls. I hadn’t heard from my parents, and the whole ski to sky highway, which might be the most beautiful drive on earth, was blurred. I ticked through the people I knew were running and watching. I hit the border and caught my breath in a text, “We’re fine, we were in Ithaca all day, I love you very much.”
Driving down I-5 with my phone in my hand I could scroll Facebook and Twitter and see with harrowing and too-late clarity how close so many people I loved had been to the blast, how they’d dodged it by seconds, or blocks, or crowded trains. How they’d walked away at just the right second. Boston is a small big city, and I assumed, when I heard how many people had been hurt, that I would know someone, even though that is fundamentally ridiculous.
I got back to Seattle late, showed up at my best friend from Boston’s house where she and her husband were curled together on the couch, watching the news, waiting for names. I am temporarily living on that couch, and last night I was glad I could go home to someone who was of the same place I am. Who, the last time she talked to her father, heard him say he was going to shoot photos of the finish, and then couldn’t get through to his phone all day.
I have tried to celebrate Patriots Day in other cities. If you are not from Boston you might not understand what a big deal Marathon Monday is, and how it makes sense that the whole city turns out for a race. But it is, and it does. Boston is fanatical and dedicated like that, steeped in tradition and solidarity and “this is how we do it, if you don’t like it get out of here.” I love that and I miss it, and I think that, despite the utter shittiness of what happened yesterday, it isn’t going to change.