Category Archives: A Photo and a Scene

> Photo & Scene <

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?”

“Only two?”

“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.

    > Photo & Scene <

    He said that if he hadn’t come here, he would have gone to San Francisco.  “Really? They’re such different kinds of places.”  I was sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee, blowing on it before taking small sips and trying not to burn my tongue.

    “They’re not so different to a kid in Iowa who only wants three things: a city, an ocean, a way out.”  He counted these three things on his fingers, long and slender, capable.  Piano hands, my mother would’ve called them.

    “I can understand that,” I said, flipping over the menu and trying to decide if I wanted breakfast or lunch.  ”I’m not from here myself.  Most people aren’t, not in this part of the city, anyway.  We’re all transplants, we come expecting to leave after our graduation or promotion or whatever, but most of us wind up staying.  We get sucked in.  Heck, I’ve been here eight years already, but I only intended for it to be three.”  I skimmed through the specials.  Nothing sounded good but my stomach was hallow and the coffee was making me shake.  The boy from Iowa was folding a paper napkin into triangles with his shoulders hunched and his body resting heavily on the bar top. So do you think you’ll stay?”
    “Too early to tell, I guess.  I got a kid sister back home.  She’s not a kid anymore, not really anyway, but I’m all she has and I feel responsible for her, you know?  Like I should go back and take care of her or something.”

    “But you don’t want to do that.”
    “No.” He looked away, scratched his chin with the back of his hand.  “I can’t go back. It just- I can’t.”
    “How old is she, your sister?”
    “Almost nineteen.”
    “That’s not too young.”

    “No.  She’s going to be alright.  I mean, she’s studying to become a nurse and is living in some old house with a couple other girls.  They seem nice, a kind of makeshift family, I guess, but I’m trying to get her to move away, if not here than somewhere else.  Somewhere with opportunities, you know?  Chicago isn’t far for her and she’s bright.  She could get a job I think, she could be happy.”  He trailed off, his eyes staring at something only he could see.  The waitress brought out a club sandwich and put it in front of him.  Without moving his gaze he raised a french fry to his mouth and took his time chewing it.

    “I’ll have one those those,” I said, making up my mind and gesturing to his plate. “A side of extra ketchup too, please.”

    “You got it,” the waitress said, feeling her apron pocket for her pencil and looking at the boy.  “You okay?’ she asked, calling him back from the place his mind had journeyed.  “Everything alright?”

    “Yeah,” he said absently.  “Everything’s fine.”  He picked up half of the sandwich and began to eat, still taking time with his chewing, still vacantly staring at the back of the bar.

    “It will be,” I said.  “You know that, don’t you?”

    He glanced over at me, skeptical, tired.  “I guess.”  He wiped his hands on a napkin and reached for his wallet.  He put twelve fifty on the counter and began to eat again, faster now.  When he’d finished the sandwich he flashed me a weak smile and gave his shoulders a little shrug.  “I mean, of course everything’s gonna be fine.  It has to be.  You know?”

    Photo taken last year, somewhere in America.

    > Photos & Scene < Dunorlan Park

    At first, she didn’t want to go.  The sky was grey and the world was waterlogged after weeks of rain.  ”It’ll be fun,” her husband promised as they pulled on wellies and buttoned their coats.  ”The dog will love it.  You’ll love it.”

    The park was close and they walked the path around the pond with the dog between them, behind them, then pulling them forward, tugging against the restraint of the lead.  When the dog wandered off the pavement and ran along to investigate a scent, her paws kicked up bits of turf and left small imprints in the mud.  ”We’ll have to put her in the shower,” the wife said.  “The towels will need bleaching again.”

    The fog was heavy and trees loomed through the mist like ghosts.  “I love how green the world looks against a grey sky,” he said, sidestepping a puddle but staying in step with his wife.  ”It’s like they’re glowing almost, illuminated from within.  You can feel the energy of the green.”

    “The energy of the green,” she repeated. She picked a leaf from a nearby plant, traced the veins with her finger and cut through the greenness with her fingernail. 

    Halfway around the pond, they stopped at a bench and let the dog off the lead.  Together, they sat in a contented silence and watched; children ran through puddles, their laughter muted by the breeze and the backs of their jackets flecked with bits of mud.   Men cast their fishing lines into the brown water and ducks clambered over one another, fighting for the bits of bread being tossed into the water by two boys on the bridge.  The husband laughed as their dog chased a black and white spaniel around an evergreen and the wife kept an eye on the pit bull that was running laps around its owner in the field on their right.  Inhaling, they could smell the heaviness of mud, the wetness of the leaves and the rubber from their boots.  The greens in the park were vivid- so vivid- and the world felt very much alive around them.

    At two-thirty, the husband checked his watch and then called for the dog.  The three of them began their walk home, the dog running here and there, her fur muddy, her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth, her nose wet.  Naturally, they fell into step with one another and, as they walked along the path toward home, they both felt glad.

    Photos taken yesterday at Dunorlan Park