I love this city most when it’s asleep.
Due to some alarm clock related human error (read: my human error) I drove Mike into work this morning for a 7am meeting. Normally, I drive him in on days when I am not going into the office, and so typically I get back on the freeway and head home after I get him to his office. Today, I was heading directly into work, so instead of taking the freeway home, I decided to take city streets to get from Mike’s part of town to mine.
I dropped Mike off, made a complicated left turn and then veered onto Charles Street, through the heart of Beacon Hill toward my office. There was little traffic, few lights shone from the brownstones, the windows of the boutiques were dark, and only a few coffee shops showed signs of life. The city was still sleeping.
I found myself enjoying the quiet of the sleeping city, and began to pay closer attention to my surroundings.
I turned right onto Beacon Street at the bottom of Charles Street and with the Boston Common on my left, I headed toward the Citgo sign and the western part of the city. The sky was a deep blue, and the wet streets reflected that light in such a way that the entire city seemed two colors: the blue of the streets and sky, and the brown of the brick brownstones.
It’s a beautiful city, this adopted home of mine. I’ve lived here since I was 25, and so much has happened in my life since then. Although technically I still live in Boston, I rarely get to downtown, and never am I there before the crowds and the traffic and the impatience congest the streets.
This morning, I wished for the city never to wake up, and I remembered why I originally fell in love with Boston. This sleeping city, this historic city, contains so much beauty that it will break your heart.
But that’s the problem. Boston will break your heart.
I’ve had relationships like this.
When watching someone sleep was the only time I felt close to them. Was the only time I was able to remember what had originally drawn me to them. The only time I could think, without bitterness, of the promise the relationship had once held. The vulnerability that comes with the act of sleeping is incredibly attractive.
But ultimately, we must wake up.
Those relationships ended, of course. If silence is the only medium left for communication, if you can only be honest when the other person lies unaware, if you ignore the knowledge that your heart will break eventually, well, you only postpone the inevitable.
I loved this city once, and now I love it for what it used to mean to me. But where once I felt such a part of the pulse of the city, now I feel decidedly Other. I don’t think the city changed – New England in general isn’t a place that changes quickly – I think that I have changed, and having changed, I find unable to relate to this city unless it is sleeping.
But the sky is lightening now, and the traffic is heavier, and I can hear the horns and the sirens from my office window.
My city is waking. It breaks my heart.