When I heard that they were demolishing the Wellesley Arms
, I ran
a good half-mile to witness its destruction
. Behind the yellow tape
and John were already standing as close as the police would let them. They
both looked older than when I'd left nine months
ago. They stood a few
inches apart, their hands hanging limply like they wanted to intertwine.
I stepped quietly behind them. Only a handful of people were here
today; the city's normal traffic buzzed along obliviously behind us. When
the two glanced at each other, I took the opportunity to cough and draw
their attention. "You know, you can almost see the outline that the couch
left." John kept staring at the building, apparently finding my voice
familiar enough not to turn around. Bea gave a half-smile and caught my
eye over her shoulder.
We'd spent our first year out of college here, christening our
three-room the "poet's colony", surviving bohemially on our residual
part-time income; eating slightly time-expired food and putting minor
works of art on every surface we could drive a nail into. When we left,
there were just dents in the plaster, which the landlord undoubtedly
filled in with Spackle the moment we stepped out the door. A life of
writing wasn't quite full enough for any of us, although it took all of us
awhile to figure it out. When my and Bea's relationship turned into a
series of angst works posted one over the other on the east wall,
everything else, in accord, crumbled down around it. John got sick of
being a "third wheel" and upgraded his current fling to live-in status. I
lost my job. Bea moved out and nobody heard from her for two months.
John found her working full-time at a coffeehouse in the North
End, coming up with watercolor paintings for the walls, mixing cream and
sugar, and loathing herself quietly. After that, we all went our separate
ways in a more civil fashion: John had begun a belated
internship at a law firm; I went into advertising; Bea stubbornly quit
serving caffeine after two months and moved across town, joining a typing
pool or some such drudgery.
Since then, I'd given up prose in favor of Angela, a pretty girl
who worked downtown and grew perfect window-ledge gardens. They were
microcosms of her world, which was calm, controlled, and attractive
instead of beautiful. Her apartment (our apartment, by this time) always
smelled a lot like pine cones. She said it reminded her of home.
Angela didn't have the fire.
Over our time together, I'd stopped writing -- it made her jealous
and I hardly had the time. Work begat more work, and the search for rest
and time alone became the new focus of my life. I cherished our moments
apart, when I could admire the city from the roof, scribble down a poem or
run through the streets, eat a pizza and just laugh at the absurdity of
I think that Bea knew what had happened before the rest of us did.
She work the same look on her face as I did, the expression that said she
was searching for something that we'd both willingly given up, and could
probably never recover. We'd grudgingly backed away from a life that
frightened and fulfilled us and moved into one that was comfortable and
familiar, and altogether too easy.
The countdown blared, and the Wellesley Arms collapsed in on
itself. Somewhere else, Angela smiled and didn't know why. The glow in
Bea's eyes went out. It was right then that I admitted to myself that I
couldn't live with the vines and billboards and sex and society anymore; I
just needed to get to where I could feel the fire again, a place
where I wasn't sure I could ever find my way back to, where the world
would return to its imperfect self.