Five people can stand shoulder-to-shoulder and still allow another person, going in the opposite direction, to pass by. Stubby fire hydrants, sprouting from the concrete, are just tall enough to catch a gangly, tattooed teenager’s shinbone when they aren’t watching where they are going.
Hundreds of discarded pieces of chewing gum look like an unfinished connect-the-dots puzzle. I know that sidewalk.
It is next to a convenience store where gangly, tattooed teenagers work the strange and revealing midnight-to-eight shift.
On their way to a nearby church, they pass over this sidewalk everyday for five years, as it is situated between the church and a favorite subway station. Although the nearest subway station is just across the street, that piece of sidewalk begins a meandering, scenic walk and not a walk of convenience.
It is across the street from a familiar library and catty-corner to a local chocolate shop.
Whether it is the saunter of a casual first date or the furious whiz of an anniversary dinner-tardy boyfriend, that sidewalk has seen it all.
On crisp winter evenings intimate friends, some who have now passed away, walked over that piece of sidewalk engaged in boisterous argument. Maybe about the Red Sox, maybe about God, who can remember? Surely both topics were debated with equal passion.
Two blocks away is a favorite record store and two blocks in the other direction a favorite sushi restaurant. Around the corner is a favorite sitting-and-watching spot and a much-too-expensive, but oft purchased, cup of coffee.
Last week this nearly divine marker, this faithful slab of urban concrete was fouled by evil. I saw this sidewalk on national news speckled with blood and littered with debris.
Twelve years ago I was cursing at my television because Jerry Springer was being interrupted by the news. How was I supposed to redeem myself after watching a very obese man jello-wrestle a midget without Jerry’s “final thoughts?”
It was the single largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history.
I watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center and then both buildings crumble to the ground.
Like most Americans my heart went out to the families of the victims and the first responders although it felt very distant to me. In the ensuing years I was as transfixed on the tragedy and recovery as everyone else but I did not know that sidewalk.
I’d never been to the World Trade Center and unfortunately still haven’t. I don’t know what the air smells like in a fog. I don’t know what it sounds like at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. But that sidewalk, last week’s sidewalk, I know very well.
The emotional impact of the Marathon Bombing is still unfolding not just for the people of Boston but for all Americans. It is also still unfolding for me.
Page 2 of 2 - A few people have casually broached the subject over the past week. Not in depth, but with a sympathetic look or reassuring shoulder squeeze and light conversation.
Neither Kansans nor Bostonians want to discuss uncomfortable matters in polite company. In some strange way that has been comforting.
A friend asked about the neighborhood where the bombs went off and I politely said I had been there, the moments and sense-memories too overwhelming to express in passing.
It was as if it happened on my front porch.
I prefer to think about good things, which, by consequence, means I often let myself forget about the evil and hate in the world. When things like this happen it is shocking and jarring. I reel back, aghast with amazement every time, almost as if it were the first time.
The memorials, the thoughts and prayers of people across the world have touched me. All of The Hub ex-patriots appreciate the outpouring of support. We all feel for the people directly impacted by the bombing and the community of Watertown held hostage by a terrorist on the run.
I cried when the local radio station played “Sweet Caroline,” the unofficial anthem of Red Sox Nation, and “Dirty Water,” the Standells’ snark-ode to our murky Charles River, back-to-back.
I honked my horn and slammed my steering wheel when they caught the second bombing suspect. I think the lady driving in front of me nearly had a heart attack.
I think all of us are trying to find our way amidst the darkness, looking for something good buried beneath all this terrible mayhem.
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.