In 2007, I met my wife. She made herself known to me through a popular dating website on New Year’s Eve, 2006. I was cool, and waited a few hours to respond. A few days later, in the first week of 2007, she wrote back. Soon we were on the phone and soon we were meeting. We met at the Alchemist, a restaurant on South Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain, where she lived. For those of you who don’t know, Jamaica Plain is an area in Boston. One of the reasons I even replied to her, other than that her profile intrigued me, our headlines were almost the same thing, and her beauty, was the fact that she lived in Boston. I lived in the Southcoast city of New Bedford, an hour south of the state capitol. So in mid-January, we met outside the Alchemist. It was snowing. She helped me get there because I got lost. It went well.
It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with Jamaica Plain, to fall in love with Boston, and the Greater Boston Area. My social anxiety made it difficult. I had a panic attack on the streets of Harvard Square in Cambridge on a snowy February day, but by the day in May that my daughter met Pamela (we went to Franklin Park Zoo and then to a Fenway Regal Cinema to see Spider-Man 3), I was in love, not just with the woman whom I’d already suspected would be around for a while, but with Boston.
I moved in with Pamela that October. Unfortunately, I only got to live in Boston for a year and a half. The economy took a turn in 2008 and by February 2009, we couldn’t afford to live in the city anymore.
It still hurts. Just today, Pamela and I were longing for Boston. Pamela lived there for 18 years. By the time we had to leave, that was half her life. I know she misses it terribly. If the pain I get in my heart when I think about living in Boston is any indication, I wonder how she’s not brought to her knees by her pain.
Boston took me out of the small city (big town) that I grew I up in, a place with only two bookstores, two movie theaters (both multiplexes that show the current hits), and a narrow view of things to a real city with many bookstores, movie theaters (that showed a huge variety of movies), and diversity the likes of which I’d hardly seen. Boston also had a huge impact on my daughter Courtney. She was nine when she met Pamela and went to Boston for the first time. As she came more and more, we rode the T and rode the “bendy-buses”. We took her to the Museum of Fine Arts. The Prudential Center (aka, the Pru) and Boylston and Newbury Streets were a favorite destination, especially since Pamela worked in Copley Plaza.
Most of all, for the first time in my life, I really felt at home. Strange, that. Growing up in a small city, a city I love, never made me feel at home. For 30 years I felt like someone misplaced, odd, alien. It took moving to a major city where a small area like Jamaica Plain is more urban than downtown New Bedford, and bigger, too! I felt more at home.
I sometimes think we left too fast, that if we’d only stayed, something would’ve happened. Unfortunately, that something would most likely have been poverty and homelessness. I came back to the area I grew up in, my soon-to-be-wife in tow. But I knew where my home was: Boston.
So when I saw the news on Twitter this afternoon, and then Facebook, and then, hands shaking, when I turned on the TV, I was devastated. I was home alone with Genevieve, the five-month-old. Pamela had gone to the grocery store. I called her to tell her. I didn’t want someone to mention it to her or for her to overhear it. She has—excuse me—we have friends in the city.
Bombs. Destruction. Death. The news people were running around, the Boston channels had their news people right there. Shit, they all had teams covering the Marathon! Much like I did twelve years ago, I watched as events unfolded. Only instead of it being a city I didn’t know, buildings I’d driven by only once, in a bus, this time time I knew the city, had walked those streets with my family as well as alone. I’d cried once before Pamela came home, several times afterward. We wept and held each other. I contacted Courtney, and worry about her. She’s a freshman in high school now and planned on going to college in Boston. I hope she still wants to.
For me, I know I want to go back. With the baby, living in the city isn’t really what we want, but living close enough so that we could drive there one a weeknight for dinner, or to catch a show, or to just do something… Yeah, that’s what we want.
Tonight, I’m hurting. My wife is hurting. My teenage daughter is hurting. Most of all, my city, my adopted home is hurting.