Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From Boston

He knew all the lyrics, but his mind had chosen only these two lines to recycle:

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!

He paused. People? Or peoples? He could not remember. He knew all the words but this one letter troubled him. Regardless, on cycled the lines, unceasing and uncontrolled.

The scene around him seemed familiar. Night’s darkness stretched out in all directions around his highwayed car, except to his front where the decreasingly faint glow of a city seemed to hover. Escaped light oozed into the sky creating the haze. He recalled his freshmen astronomy lab, many years prior, where he had anticipated studying stars, galaxies, universes! Oh, what heavenly glory! Instead, the first lab taught on the tragedy of carnal light pollution. The TA had spoken as if the issue were the most urgent humankind faced in the 21st century. Genocide? AIDS? Sex trafficking? They could all wait.

He had failed that lab. The only assignment he would ever fail in college. Apparently haze was his thing.

I-93S now stretched out in front of him towards the glow, the airport where he was to pick up an incoming friend his destination. He loved driving, loved the windows down and the music up. But tonight, he kept the distracting radio off. The silence was new to him.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people(s?) rejoice!

His last visit to the city had come in a dream. He did not remember much – night, fear, a call that intuited: “Come.” This night reminded him of that night in a way he could not grasp. But unlike that dreamed night, fear was far from him, and this was rare. Also unlike that night was the fact that he was very much awake, not the object of sleep’s oppressive fantasy but the alert, alive, awake shaper of his own thought. He should have had control and yet his thoughts, like the recycling Sunday song, felt uncontrolled.

He was awake tonight. That unnerved him.

Only miles from the city, his Sentra pulled up to a toll booth. His prior home knew of no such thing, the money for road maintenance secretly hidden away in taxes on such things as gasoline, food, and cigarettes. In New England, the toll had become more obvious. Until, that is, he had discovered the E-Z Pass. As much a sign of New England as Tom Brady and Dunkin’ Donuts, the purple E-Z Pass attached to the upper windshield of a car and allowed the driver to roll through tolls sans stop. It appeared easy, as if the journey demanded no cost.

As he passed through the toll booth that night, E-Z Pass electronically detracted $1.50 from the bank account where he stored his treasure. He was no different than those who stopped to pay, who knew the physical toll, except that he allowed E-Z Pass to deceive him. He even paid for the misdirection. The deceptive purple E-Z Pass box had cost $26.79 to purchase. A small price to pay for a pass to the E-Z life, he had thought.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people(s) rejoice!

The lights of the city had taken shape by now, the haze of the previous miles giving way to the articulate clarity of the night skyline. A bridge stood out amongst the copse of skyscrapers, it suspensions seeming to defend the TD Banknorth Garden. The building’s tenants, the Boston Celtics, would play a do-or-die Game 7 there the next night after failing to earn a series-clinching win on the road the night before. The Celtic pride that overflowed in thumped chests and condescending sneers in the friendly paradise of the Garden seemed terrified of taking its talents to a hostile environment. He despised the hometown team for this and secretly (the locals would tar and feather him if they knew!) hoped they would get what he knew their heartless team deserved – a Game 7, season-ending loss.

The car dove closer to the city. The Prudential Building stood alone off to his right, cut off from the community of scrapers that composed the city proper. He always found this set-up peculiar. Did Prudential’s offer of insurance have no place?

The uncontrolled refrain in his head quickly forced the question into silenced submission, as it continued its cerebral tyranny.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the peoples rejoice!

If he had to guess, “people” should be “peoples.” He knew not why, but “peoples” was his gut feeling.

Speeding into the city, the car quickly plunged into the Big Dig, the underwater and undercity tunnel which would lead him to his final destination. Boston Harbor floated above his head as he sped through the tunnel. The harbor again brought to mind his last nocturnal visit to the city when he had recalled it as the foot of the watery trail which carried America’s first settlers. A trail must run in two directions though, and he wondered why he had defaulted Boston Harbor as the foot. It could just as easily be the head if something were to be sent.

The thought jolted his worldview for a moment. This beloved city he had always seen as a destination, both in American history and in his own life. The place seemed to beckon. Or perhaps he had only made it seem to beckon. . . .

Foolishness! America always beckons! People yearn for this place. We send nothing because nothing wants to go. The watery trail ran and runs to, and not from, Boston. It must. We can send nothing because nothing needs to go.

His car emerged from the tunnel, where a green exit sign for “Revere” immediately called to it. The town took the name of the patriot who was sent to tell the good and dangerous news that ultimately led to freedom for many.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the peoples rejoice!

The silver Sentra soon passed by the sign that read: “Welcome to Logan International Airport.” He had arrived at his destination.

In an unexplainable and uncontrolled instant, he became certain, absolutely certain, the word was “peoples.”


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