On Saturdays, I have half an hour for lunch. All morning, in an office sheltered from the rain, I’ve been foggily debating – subway or pavement or nudpob or starbucks – as the rain hushes and slides down the side of the window. I sit, warm, at a desk of curved dark wood. It is 12:10 then 12:12 then 12:15 in this office and I am grabbing my umbrella and removing my nametag and rushing outside.
The rainy air is the type of cool that awakens the skin, as if to say: hello! You are alive today! Cheeks flushing and skin shaking awake, I abandon all lunch plans and float spectrally over the footbridge to the esplanade. My umbrella poofs open and eyes wander to the steamlike fog skating along the Charles. Pits pat over my head, translucent through the fabric.
Here is something that is true: I am leaving Boston in three months. To cope with this knowledge, I have become increasingly accustomed to doing things like this: skipping lunch or class or some other obligation to spend time with Boston. Talking to Boston, walking with Boston. Stealing time just to be with Boston.
I do not want to forget this place. I do not want to forget Boston.
I am conscious of the fact that these walks can’t and won’t be a memory. They are not episodes, and nothing has ever “happened” during them in the way we think of things happening. This rainy day with the hello! air will pass and melt like fog into a thousand other days that also caught me wistful and heavy-hearted with their beauty.
And so I chase a different sort of memory: the kind that lives not in the mind, but settles like a tenant somewhere in the body. Sets up shop, makes a home. Spreads out, settles in. Buys cheap tchotchkes and leaves a mess. That kind.
I know this isn’t bullshit because I can feel it. On a day like this – a day that makes me think, wow, I need to remember this and I won’t – it’s as if my body shudders awake. Says, I got this. Says, this isn’t for you. And the brain fog clears, and the lungs open, and the heart spills out everywhere – a huge warm mess in the body. And the skin hair lifts up and the spine uncoils and the feet lighten, and I feel my body becoming the thing it is meant to be: a vessel through time, an unthinking feeling animal thing, a thing belonging and precious to this world.
Take what you will, sneer if you must. I know this: my body will carry the memory of Boston with me better than my mind ever could. Boston air in my lungs, Boston dirt between my toes, Boston rain condensed on my skin. Heart spilling this city wherever it goes.