To Boston with love
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live in Boston. That’s not as impressive as it sounds, because I have no recollection of my childhood. I’m not sure where I wanted to be as a kid. Probably in She-Ra‘s castle. Or Elton John‘s house.
I first came here during autumn 1996 on a history class trip in 10th grade. My classmates and I went whale watching off Cape Ann; dug deep into our wallets at Quincy Market; paid respects at the graves of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau and Alcott on Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; waded in Walden Pond as the foliage peaked; and observed what we, very imaginative teens from a well-to-do Cleveland suburb, were certain was a drug deal go down while waiting aboard our bus outside the hokey Medieval Manor. As we chowed on fried drumsticks with our bare hands and washed it down with Diet Coke, as King Arthur did in olden times, the wenches/servers heckled me more than most because it was my birthday. “Sweet 16 and never been kissed!” one teased me, accurately summing up my sex life for at least another four years. I did, however, fall in love during that trip — with a place, not a person.
Upon returning home, I pestered my parents to reunite me with my charming newfound love and send me to college in New England. It’s a riveting story, actually. I was all, “Parents, I want to go to school in Boston.” And they were like, “No.” Fin.
Despite a few detours, I eventually found my way northeast in 2005 — no thanks to those jerks — and I’ve called Boston home ever since. There’s no place I’d rather be. Or so I thought. On vacation in southern California recently, I felt surprisingly at ease knowing there were several time zones between me and reality; for more than a week, I got a reprieve from round-the-clock fretting that my love for Boston will remain unrequited.
It’s been more than a year since I’ve dated anyone locally. I resorted to importing my last girlfriend from Canada, like cheap prescription pills. Bostonians call Massachusetts Avenue, a street that stretches for miles through the city and far into the burbs, “Mass. Ave.” for short. But I’ve taken to referring to it as the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” because I’ve had so many train wrecks masquerading as first dates on that thoroughfare.
I feel as though I’m constantly searching for someone who may not be here. Is that her? I ask myself while awkwardly trying to make eye contact with passers-by, optimistically hoping Ms. Right (or Dr. Right, because I’m flexible) will simply saunter into my world by happenstance. Often, I lollygag in the wealthiest parts of town on the off-chance that a Harvard scholar might trip on some ivy and fall into my vagina.
It’s as if I’m trapped in the adult version of the children’s book “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman, in which a precocious hatchling sets out in search of his missing mom, approaching everyone and everything — a kitten, a cow, a plane — in his path with the pressing question. Except I’m not a baby bird. And I know exactly where my mom is: usually naked in my kitchen. But I am in the market for a sugar mama. Call me. *makes phone sign with hand*
Monday marked my third consecutive Fourth of July as a singleton. I take Independence Day literally, as the Founding Fathers intended. I was scheduled to work that evening, because I stupidly pursued journalism as a career, and my shift ended just as the fireworks over the Charles River began. As I headed out the door in a foul mood, I grumbled to my colleagues about “not having a life” and “going home to my cats” and “being unable to sexually attract a U.S. citizen” while the rest of Boston reveled in the biggest holiday celebration in the nation.
Driving home on the Pike to avoid the downtown traffic nightmare of closed streets and drunken tourists, I caught glimpses of the fireworks in my rear-view mirror as they burst over the skyline, the windows of skyscrapers sparkling like “Twilight” vampires. I watched as Red Sox cap-wearing toll collectors abandoned their posts to pool in the shoulder of the highway, holding up their cell phones to capture photos of the ethereal spectacle. When I exited in Cambridge, coinciding with the finale, I saw hundreds of folks in a festive spirit lining the banks of the Charles and sitting atop bridges, legs dangling and necks straining to take in the show. Witnessing everyone come together, even looking in as a blue outsider lacking the requisite red and white, I was reminded of this city’s giant heart. Just like that, I fell for Boston all over again. And wondered whether she would ever love me back.
My mom, among others, assures me everything will work out. She wouldn’t let me study out of state, sparing me thousands of dollars in student loans, so it’s pretty clear her judgment is questionable at best. But about nine years after my class trip, I got hired one short block away from the place where my sheltered Midwestern eyes were convinced they saw smack changing hands at a price set by the streets. Dreams do come true. I’ve passed that same corner almost every night after work for the past six years, and now, I realize how naive I was at 16. Drug dealers. Out of the mouths of babes! It’s mostly just hookers.