Millennium Post

Boston’s loss of innocence

It had been a creaking old winter, whining on into April and greatly overstaying its already tenuous welcome. I didn’t trust the sunshine, so I wore a warm fleecey jacket. By the time I was two blocks beyond the Public Gardens, I was sweating uncomfortably. I awkwardly shrugged out of the jacket, still walking, juggling a purse and a duffel bag on my arm. I dodged carefully around the other pedestrians: the glossy, glamorous women clicking by in neon coral heels and Gucci sunglasses, the youth with university hoodies and white headphones trailing from their ears, the occasional family wrangling toddlers, the strolling couples with dogs, the jogging couples with dogs, the knot of friends sitting and laughing as their ice cream melted down their forearms, the occasional tight gaggle of giggling and flustered young tourists, and then the men and women in the layers of tattered clothes, heads hung over their dully rattling cups.

I walked with my head down because I’m shy. Truth be told, this street is full of the intimidating: the young, the lovely, the careless, the desperate, and the lost. I only wanted to get to my gym, so I walked down Clarendon with my head down. The boisterous singing of young and healthy men reached my ears; a group of them were shouting and laughing some way up the street. As I approached, I could see a dark van ambling slowly up the middle of the street with a small flotilla of joggers in its wake.

This was the source of the singing. ‘Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are, so we tell them!’ I already knew who they were; a group of runners psyching themselves and their future spectators up for the marathon. Embarrassed and smiling, I risked a glance towards them. The men were trotting merrily, each wearing a shiny stitched hamburger costume. Red, green, and yellow fabric flopped happily as they ran, singing, announcing to the crowd: we will be running the Boston Marathon dressed as hamburgers. And, why not? The Boston Marathon is unlikely supernova of joy at the core of a grueling 26-mile-run. I became acquainted with it as a college student at Wellesley, where the students line up for the jubilant runners crossing the halfway point of the race, producing the ‘scream tunnel’ – a surging crowd shrieking breathless encouragement, beaming, waving, and occasionally kissing the passing runners, bathing them in a fierce joy like a tangible thing. I saw runners glow in the tunnel’s embrace.

I slipped away into Dartmouth Street, towards Boylston, and left the merry troupe of hamburgers behind. A few days later, when the bombs on Boylston went off and drove dozens upon dozens of merciless metal shards deep into the flesh of those who happened to be standing where I and mine had walked a thousand times, I saw a photograph subtitled, ‘Police examine objects left at the scene of the crime.’ A police officer in neon yellow was holding a hamburger costume by the brilliant green lettuce. (IPA)
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