The boy from Iowa sat on the train and stared at his reflection in the scratched window opposite. He looked tired. He snapped his fingers inside the pocket of his brown coat and counted to ninety-nine. At South Station, he exited the train and boarded a bus to the airport.
He had cash in his back pocket, sixty bucks in twenties. When he took them from the machine, they were crisp and stuck together; he crinkled them in his fist before counting them one last time and putting them in his wallet. She’d have bags with her, lots of bags, probably, and he didn’t want to hassle with them, didn’t want her worried or stressed. No, not this first time. Instead, they’d take a cab and watch the city stream by the windows as they drove along the river and then down the asphalt artery of Commonwealth Ave. He wouldn’t get mad this time when the driver went the long way; it would give her more time to peek into the windows of passing houses, take note of their crown molding and chandeliers, large paintings and flowers arranged in vases on the windowsill. She’d like to see those things, they’d remind her of what they used to have. Remember when we were glamorous? she’d say. Remember our dining room and the paintings Chris did of the house? Remember the way mom would cut flowers from the garden and arrange them in grandma’s old vase? He’d nod, his neck supported by his flannel scarf, his eyes tired. He remembered.
He got off the bus at Terminal C and studied the screens to find her flight number and locate the right baggage claim. He bought two coffees from the Dunkin’ Donuts and waited for her on a metal bench. A woman with a book sat next time him but she didn’t read, her eyes watched the escalator where bodies started as feet and slowly exposed themselves upwards, giving way to knees and torsos, arms and heads. They watched the escalator together, silent, until suddenly she was there, walking off the silver stairs looking cool but a little vacant, too. She gave him a quick hug before accepting the coffee, and pointed toward the rotating conveyer belt and the moving luggage. ”Just two bags,” she said, “Do you think we can manage?”
“I’m starting over. For real this time.” She’d cut her hair, he noticed, and whether she was standing taller or just differently, he wasn’t sure, but this young woman wasn’t the little sister he remembered leaving behind. ”I got rid of almost everything. Some of mom’s stuff is still in storage, where we left it, but everything else I sold or threw away. I don’t want to remember,” She smiled, a realistic, careful smile, “I want to start fresh.”
They collected her two suitcases and walked to the bus stop. He showed her how to buy a ticket and explained the way the public transit worked. At South Station, they got off the bus and boarded a train. They sat next to each other as they snaked through underground tunnels, their shoulders rubbing together as they stared at their reflections in the scratched glass opposite. She smiled that same careful smile, “Bobby, you look so tired,” she said. He nodded; he was.
Oh man, Monday. I had one of those fast and furious weekends that feel five days long, not two. We met new friends, explored city neighborhoods, ate delicious food, watched the rugby, and got to spend a precious 24 hours with our friend Greg who stopped over for a quick visit on his way home from India. Seeing him made me miss Boston, miss our old life and our old friends, but sitting back in the office today makes me excited for everything that’s yet to come. Bittersweet, dear reader, bittersweet.
Photo taken in London on Saturday.