Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just Another Face

I arrive at the train 5 minutes early. Since I've been taking the 6:31 train (instead of the 7:10) I do not know any of my fellow commuters so there is no conversation to be had. I am thankful for the quiet time. Silently, I remove my book from my courier bag and read a few more pages of "Hornblower and the Hotspur" before the train arrives.
After the train slows to a stop I climb aboard and find an empty seat. I resume my reading. A casual "Good morning" to the conductor who checks my pass are the first words I have spoken since I left the house. Nose back in book, I read along. Horatio is patient and he waits to attack the French ships right up until we arrive at my stop - Back Bay. I close the book, eager to know how Hornblower survives this latest action. I make my way to the back of the car and disembark, along with an older man who is always in pole position and ready to break for the stairs. He doesn't know that we're racing to the stairs. We both take the steps two at a time. Today I am the silent winner of our mini-marathon. Tomorrow, who knows?
Once on the street, I begin my walk from Back Bay station towards the Public Garden via Newbury Street. The sun is warm today but its heat is intermittent as I weave through the streets sometimes surrounded by tall buildings; other times with a clear view of the Garden.
A woman jogs past me. She's young (aren't they all?) and probably has more curves than she would like. Personally, I didn't mind them. I walk past Starbucks and flirt with the idea of getting a hot coffee for my walk but I don't want to worry about spilling it; drinking and walking is not always a great idea. Today I decide against it. However, as I pass by Starbuck's I smile and remember Jenna, Bridget and I getting coffee here on a Saturday morning not too long ago. Its a fleeting thought and soon I am walking down Newbury Street.
I squint into the sun as I'm now facing the Public Garden. Newbury is quiet this time of day. Shops are still closed and only the occasional pedestrian passes me by. No one acknowledges each other. Instead it is a silent march to our next destination. I notice that the church is having a choral festival soon but I don't stop to read the flyer. I'll look at it tomorrow.
Once into the Public Garden the silence is broken only by the chattering of two squirrels chasing each other while nearby some birds are chirping overhead. My usual path is barred due to some plantings so I wind my way through an outer walkway, finally to emerge at the bridge of the pond. An Asian woman and I nod at each other as we dodge a homeless woman towing a rolling suitcase and an attitude. I walk by her and her luggage unnoticed and continue on my way. The swan boats are lined up in the water, seemingly at rest until they are called to duty once again. At the edge of the park the pedestrian signal has just started to flash red and the countdown has begun. I quicken my pace so that I am on the other curb as the signal shows "1". Cars roar to life and race to the next light - which is red.
The Boston Common is already teeming with people today. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are being chaperoned by their masters. Some are on a leash; most are not. Beyond two playing dogs is an aerobics group, bending in positions that I am not ready for at 7:10 in the morning. Or at any time, really. The class is made up of men and woman of all shapes and sizes,too. They probably all live nearby, perhaps on Beacon Hill. How nice would it be to have Boston Common as your front yard? I'll never know...
I pass two elderly Asian women on their morning walk. I see them nearly every morning and they have never noticed me. So intent are they in their (very) animated conversation that I wish I knew what language they were speaking just to eavesdrop. After passing them I realize that someone is following me, fairly closely. From the sound and timing of the footfalls I determine that it is a woman, in heels, walking at a brisk pace. She takes two steps to my one and we maintain a constant ten feet between us. Soon, her heels and my footfalls make for a "one-two-two" tempo that I maintain in my head for awhile. Soon, she goes down a separate path and I am alone with my own, solo step.
As I reach the fountain near Tremont Street I say "'Morning!" to a man who stands at the end of the same path every day, drinking a cup of coffee. He greets me with a warm smile and "Good morning". In fact, it was he who started our morning greeting ritual. I think he's homeless but I can't be sure.
Crossing over Tremont I walk down Winter Street and now I am now in the thick of the city downtown. The sun doesn't reach the street at this time of day and there is a chill as the slight wind blows a bit colder. I pass the garbage truck crew trying to finish their rounds before day begins in Downtown Crossing. I emerge from Winter Street to the intersection of Winter and Summer Street. A Metro guy is hawking the news and I pass by a disgruntled pedestrian who seems annoyed at being asked if they wanted the news. I shake my head at the vendor, too. Summer Street turns into High Street and I pass Boston Beanstock, where the same woman is sitting in the window seat with her coffee. Usually she just stares out the window. Today she is writing in a journal. Maybe its a date book...? Whatever it is, she is intent on her task. I wonder what is so important to her today?
At the intersection of High and Congress I bump into a guy I used to work with a few years ago. We exchange pleasantries but it goes no further than that. He was definitely just a guy I worked with. No more. No less. Still, I wish him well on his new shift at work.
When I walk into Brueggers the staff is all wearing birthday hats. Millie tells me that it is Marcia's birthday and not to believe her sister Gwen when she says it is her birthday instead. I'm in a line six people deep but Marcia hands me my iced coffee anyway. I get the same drink every day so they don't even ask me what I want anymore. I wish Marcia a "Happy Birthday". Today is a good day for birthdays.
Iced coffee in hand I cross over Congress Street as the light turns red and I am quickly at the back entrance of my building. Morning walk complete, I am now just another face in the work crowd.


Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Awesome, awesome post friend. This is the inspiration I have been waiting for. You have a unique talent. You should exercise it more often.

9:29 AM, April 23, 2008  
Blogger Summer Ryan Doyle said...

great post, Andy.

7:02 PM, April 23, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

A good day for birthdays indeed. Beautifully written...I feel as if I myself walked through the Gardens this morning with you. Thanks for allowing all of us to accompany you.

10:27 PM, April 23, 2008  
Blogger Letera said...

Hi, you dont know me but I just loved your post, felt like I was walking w/ you. I also look at your previous posts w/ the shows from the 70's, brought back great memories. Thanks! You are a great writer!

10:29 PM, April 23, 2008  
Blogger FoxInDetox said...

You can't see me right now...but I'm doing the "I told you so" dance that I learned from watching Will and Grace.

8:26 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger Andy said...

I hate* you Kathy!

*"Hate" in this case means "Love" - but you're still a beeyotch when you wanna be. :-)

9:04 AM, April 24, 2008  
Blogger FoxInDetox said...

It's a gift.

7:45 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I love Boston...sigh.

It's great that you walk from the train rather than taking the T to Post Office Square. What a lovely ritual you have created for yourself. I'm almost envious.

Reminds me of the opening sequence of You've Got Mail, only better.

2:42 PM, April 25, 2008  

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