Friday, July 11, 2008

Urban Patchwork

We board the bus and it's pitch-black outside, another chunk of daylight gone from a long commute. A drunk man presses up against me and everyone he's near but is strangely polite about it. When he gets off the bus, a couple of boys run from it, rather than boarding it, and I pause only a second to think how odd that is before I hear pop pop pop pop pop. I find myself and the rest of the bus flat on the floor. My bones go hollow. Even after I smell the sulphur -- fireworks -- I cannot stand.

When I go to work in the morning, a security officer at the bank I pass by never fails to greet me.  "Have a happy Thursday!" he says. In a city where men usually say things like a construction worker did the other day -- "Hey you I gotta hole in my pants wanna come stand in front of me?"--  I am always surprised to be greeted the way the security officer greets me. 

I step over a woman painting white doves on the sidewalk. These doves are on pavement all over the city. They're beautiful and they're outlined in purple and they say "Spread Peace Stop Violence." Another woman uses her lunch break every day to go outside of a church in Copley square to place one stone on a heap of stones for each soldier dead in Iraq. She prays over each one. She will be up to 17,000 before the year's end. 

A young man runs the front desk at the library I'm visiting. Inside the room, he's a wart. "Don't let that corner of your folder hang over the edge of the desk," he says, thumping it back into place.  Sometimes he picks up my papers, jumbles them, and says, "You MUST keep this folder in ORDER."  When I go to lunch with the fellows, never failing to feel like a wannabe since I am, he makes jokes with me about the pizza or the veggie burgers. I wonder if he has a secret twin.

I learn the secret of a Boston accent. Abandon all "R's." I like to try new words  -- Glah-stuh; Woo-stuh; Bah-stahn -- but still have trouble substituting "heah" for "here." My "r's" and "ee's" and "aa's" are too loud and long and they betray me. I try to stay quiet but have never been good at that.

I come across a titillating find. I discover one of the women in my dissertation was a Revolutionary war spy for the British. I've found a spy letter she received from a Scotsman in jail for treason. I find evidence she's hidden a response in a jar of hair powder. I struggle to decipher who "the Great" is. Andrew and I crack her code. We feel triumphant.

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