If everything goes right, you should be reading this just after I touch down in Boston. It’ll be my first time back to the city in a while. How long’s a while? I honestly can’t remember. Three years? Four? Has it been that long? I’ve been trying to trace back when my actual last flight back was, and for the life of me I can’t. Which sucks, because it used to be home.
I moved to Boston in the fall of 2000. I’d been dating Erin for three years, all of them long distance, and it was becoming crystal clear that we were hitting the point where we either lived in the same city or slammed the brakes. Three years of monthly visits and the occasional vacation wears on a relationship, and when you’ve never shared the bumps and slides of a daily life together in the first place…well, it’s no good for the heart and soul. One of us was going to have to move, and since Erin had as much interest in living in Pittsburgh as everyone else (read: none), that meant it was on me to move.
So I moved.
What? I loved the girl. You think it was a tough decision?
Despite some crankiness from the family – I hadn’t finished college yet, and couldn’t I just maybe wait until that, and maybe until a good job came along and also have you helped grandpa with his computer? – it all fell into place without issue. Ok, finding an apartment sucked (like the night when I went out, in the rain, to see a place, and the owner never showed, and I lost my hat, and I had a full-on meltdown), and moving is never any fun, but really, it went pretty well.
I lived in Boston until 2003, with Erin, in a tiny subdivision of a house with a handfull of lunatic neighbors and the most Irish landlord in the world, ever, including the ones who are Irish landlords in Ireland. His name was Martin Battle. He sang Irish music. His accent was full frontal assault-brogue. Best landlord ever. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. Living in Boston. The apartment was within walking distance of the T, my job was downtown, and I drove further to pick up Erin from her job at the mall than I ever did for my own job. I never, not once, drove into the city for work.
Boston was wonderful. Incredible. Thinking about it, about the charm of South Station, of the incredible lunches in Chinatown and the mind blowing salad bar down the street, and the feeling that there was something happening around you at every single second…well, the nostalgia gets a little Fellini-eque. We moved back home to be near my grandparents so long as they’re still with us – and I can never, ever thank Erin enough for getting over her dread of Pittsburgh on my behalf – and though I was only in the city for three years, Boston remains home in my heart.
Going back after so long and staying for such a short time has me on edge. I don’t know what to expect when I get there. What will have changed? What will have passed away? Will the places and sights that anchor my nostalgia remain, or will something subtle but significant have changed in my absence? I half expect to feel like I’ve walked into a childhood home that’s belonged to someone else for years; the walls are all where they should be, but they’ve taken down the wallpaper and are using your bedroom to store Christmas decorations and surplus Costco canned goods.
Either way, I won’t have long to suss it out. Erin and I drive to Pawtucket for a Lights concert – the reason for the trip; and no, I don’t know why I wanted to see her badly enough to plan a whole trip – and won’t return to the city until the next day. That means one day in Boston, hanging out with a friend whom I didn’t know when I lived there, going to restaurants and bars in which I never ate or drank. Even if the city is the same, I’ll be passing through someone else’s Boston, and maybe that’s for the best.
At least I’ve been promised soup dumplings and possible karaoke at a lesbian bar. If you’re going to visit someone else’s Boston, you’d better make the most of it.