Yesterday, when I returned home from Boston, my boyfriend picked me up and we drove to get smoothies as small treat to ourselves. Somewhere during the ride I realized I haven't taken a drink or done drugs in four years. I think it came about because he mentioned one of his friends had been drunk over the weekend and I remembered that I used to do that and then remembered that I stopped finally, thankfully, one day and that day - holy shit - was this day.
The last time I went to Boston I was 18, maybe 19. I was with my family and we were so excited that my brother and I were close enough to legal drinking age that we all drank together in the hotel room and pubs where they were loose with the rules. I was enchanted by New England, by the Puritan graveyards and Salem witch museums. I took pictures of all of that stuff, with statues of Nathaniel Hawthorne and pirates outside of liquor stores. I knew I wanted to be a funeral director and was trying my best to be into the signifiers of the trade: history, cemeteries, booze. I am sitting here unable to recall much more about that trip except for stumbling through Harvard Square buzzed up, then falling asleep on the train to the airport where it was discovered I had lost my wallet somewhere en route. My mom tells me I almost did not board the plane. It all just seems like a nondescript, basic ass vacation. What I honestly remember most is that my parents let me drink underage and I was ecstatic about it.
This past weekend Boston was different in many ways, notably that I remember all of it and that I was a knot of anxiety as soon as I arrived because a long-ago feeling had been revived to a fever pitch, a feeling of insignificance and rage that started during my layover in Philadelphia where I had begun watching Dr Blasey-Ford’s statements. When I arrived in Boston I settled in for Kavanaugh’s questioning. It was gruesome. I stopped before it was over because my head had begun to throb with despair and I went to bed. It still hurt the next day.
The event I was in Boston for was held at Mt Auburn Cemetery, America’s first garden cemetery and home to a century’s worth of historical figures. Its expansive, undulating sections provided a serene space to wander through and be alone or to lay on its soft grass and chat with an old friend. It is a place for the dead so well cared for it that even though smoking was allowed, no one felt comfortable doing it. I learned about those Puritan headstones I took pictures of the last time I was there, the death head with wings that slowly over time transitioned into the face of a Puritan, representing the belief that fate was no longer predestined but in fact one we could control.
I thought about what was happening in DC, what had happened to me, what had happened to every woman I know and looked again at the cemetery, where the solid tombs of men whose imprint is so deep on this nation they may as well still be alive. The thick green ivy flapped like dollars against the cold granite.
The neighborhood I stayed in was full of the flavor that comforted me when I was still a working funeral director. Neighborhood pubs where waitresses served delicious food with thick accents. Funeral homes with family names on them that looked like actual homes. Canadian-American clubhouses. Armenian-American clubhouses. A large body of water nearby.
The event continued on throughout the weekend. I learned about the other Mt. Auburn, the one in Baltimore which is home to many Civil Rights advocates. At one time it was a wealth-building factor in the Black community but is now struggling against the same systemic injustices it faced back then as it tries to come up with the money it needs to create a preservation trust. I heard the man who handled the body of the Boston bomber lament the state for turning its back on the certain criminals while it chooses to laud others. I discussed how we as women who work in alternative practices can value ourselves and our work enough to ask for the money we know we deserve. I grew closer to some people I have known for a few years but don’t see often and discovered that everyone feels hurt from social media.
Walking through the neighborhood to get to Mt Auburn I saw a sign at a bus stop that said “Summer fun is hard to come by when all you can think about is” the final part covered by a sticker that said “where are all the black people?” I told this to two women at the event, both POC who had shared with me they were sick of being stared at in Boston, were ready to go home. I walked back by the bus stop two hours later and the word “black” had been scratched out and in pen the words “white white” written across it.
On the last night I spent there, I went with friends I’ve known the longest to Olmsted Park to see Fujika Nakaya’s Fog x FLO sculptures. Nakaya has been working with fog for decades, having been obsessed with decay and decomposition, searching for ways to express our disappearance into the elements on a larger scale. When we arrived the park was clear, except for a crowd gathering to witness the coming cloud. Soon, from an embankment in the middle of the pond, plumes of fog began to tumble out of a hose-like device. We waited at the edge of the pond as it reached us, pulling out our phones in an attempt to document the impermanent art. The pictures made it look like any other foggy morning, or evening, or day when you ignore what obscures your vision in order to just keep moving. My experience was that I hoped it would cover me completely but it just floated softly around my body. Within minutes, it quickly evaporated into a fogless evening as though nothing had happened. But I remember what it was like, the excitement for the approaching haze, the shallow disappointment with the documentation, the relief that it was lifted by some magical element and that it gave way to a clear, if dark, space.