A walk in the park with my ghosts
Do you ever have one of those places you really love but somehow hardly ever go there anymore, perhaps because your ghosts haunt it? For some reason, one of my such places is Boston’s Esplanade.
It’s a lovely walk along the Charles, with trees and sculptures, and runners and families, and people walking their dogs and sunning themselves on the docks. It’s not hard for me to get there at all—I could even walk there, if I felt particularly energetic—but I just never go anymore, because my ghosts mark time there.
Yesterday, as I drank my coffee and thought about my day, I wrote down, “Ollie and I are going to walk on the Esplanade today.” I wanted to see my ghosts.
So we did. Ollie took his first T ride on the Red line—not much of a fan of the creaking, bobbing train, but he did get used to it. We got off at Kendall and walked over the Longfellow Bridge—another favorite—in the sunshine. For some reason, during the worst of this time, I refused to cross all the way, stopping just shy of the middle.
Sailboats dotted the river with white and red sails. This time of year, the throngs haven’t quite arrived. People stepped into the bumpouts, and a mime worked the main one, but I could still get a spot, though I avoided the mime, because he scared me.
As we walked over the new footbridge to the Esplanade, I tried to remember the last time I walked those once-familiar paths. Years, definitely. Well, everything is always years these days, but I think years before the Afters. Knowing it was there was enough, seeing it while taking the Red Line over the bridge was enough. My ghosts are there, after all, so part of me still walks the paths.
We passed a bench where one of my ghost engaged in a difficult, frustrating conversation, about how time just didn’t want to work for us. She got up and walked slowly, sadly behind me.
Past another the spot where an ex-boyfriend and I used to sit and watch the parasailers struggle to stay on their boards. We’d narrate their thoughts. My ghost smiles and laughs, happy to see me. She tells me amusing things about the people picnicking along the shore.
We passed where a friend and I watched the fireworks, before we figured out that watching them on the Mass Ave bridge offered a better view and fewer people. This ghost knows the secret, and I look to the Mass Ave bridge wondering if we have the energy to walk all the way home that way.
The Hatch Shell, which for years I thought was called the “Hat Shell” (to me, it looked like a bit like bowler hat on its side). Once upon a time, I was in a “riot” that broke out during a concert, making it shut down. We’d calmly left and crossed the street, while a very nervous cop shouted at us to calm down. My friends and I then went to the Ritz to use the loo. That ghost with her bright laces and defiant grin wonders just how I got so normal.
My ghosts assembled walk with Ollie and I along the still familiar paths. I sat on a bench next to an old willow tree, and Ollie snuggled up against my leg. I looked out on the river, the bridges, the boats, the people enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon. My ghosts came and sat with me for a time, wondering where I’d gone, if I had gone. Who am I now?
I’m still here, I said to them gently. It’s nice to see you, but we won’t be here long.
We walked back to the footbridge, Ollie, my ghosts and me. I turned and regarded my ghosts, one by one and crossed the bridge.
Gallery: Sundry Wonders
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