Boston On That Very First Day

1988. Autumn. Boston.

Martin arrives in Boston on a perfect day in August of 1988. This is the first time he has ever seen the campus. The year before, he had decided to spend the next four years of his life there sight unseen. Hubris works both ways: good and bad. This would turn out to be one of the very best decisions of his life, and he made it without really thinking at all.

Miles Standish Hall. The taxi from Logan Airport drops him off. There, in front of this beautiful, historic-looking building (all the buildings in Boston look historic to him) he and several other freshmen board a small, charter bus that will drive them down Commonwealth Avenue while an upper-classman gives them a guided tour of Boston University.

Something in his belly—no, in his solar plexus—yes, something in his solar plexus begins to burn. He feels himself coming alive. By all rights, he should be frightened, or at least wary. But look at him. There he is: all of eighteen years old, straight from nowhere (for he truly thinks of Sweeny, Texas as literally nowhere), all alone in the great big city of Boston, where he knows not one single person, and despite all this, his eyes are alive with excitement as he looks directly into the eyes of his fellow students, his fellows—and his eyes say Yes, I am with you. I hear you. I know you. Because I am one of you. And without even thinking about it, he accepts this new reality. He becomes one of them. No, that’s not quite right. He becomes aware that he is one of them. That he has always been one of them. On this first day away from that little nowhere town, that insignificant blank space on the map just south of B.F.E., this first day away from the only world he has ever known for his entire life, within a matter of minutes…he sees that he is home. And so what is there to fear?

Years later, as much older man, say about 40, and living back in Houston, maybe one day as he’s looking out the window of his Heights home that he shares with his perfect, beautiful, loving wife and their two perfect, beautiful, loving Pugs, he will wonder to himself: Why that bus? Why does the memory of that bus ride stand out? For he can, in his 40s, remember very little at all about that very first day in Boston:

  1. Waiting at Logan airport for his bag, he saw a Japanese girl so captivatingly beautiful that he actually prayed she would be going to B.U.
  2. Getting on the T at West Campus and asking a couple of young ladies if he needed exact change, and the leader of the two didn’t even answer his question, but instead dove right in with her own:

YANKEE GIRL: Are you from the South or somethin’?

—and he was caught! busted! red-handed! redneck-throated! so he laughed it off and boarded the train and made a promise to himself, then and there, to destroy that Texas drawl—and while he was at it, why not tell everyone he was from Houston? yes, that’d be best, wouldn’t it? yes, it would save him, when asked about his origins, from needing to elaborate on geography and biography, yes, best to just decide to be from Houston, which isn’t even really lying, right?, because that was in fact where he was born—and people from Houston do not speak with that backwoods, dumbass, racist, hick-from-the-sticks, Texas drawl—Houston is not Texas, Houston is part of the real world, just like Boston.

  1. Meeting his roommate for the very first time—Christopher Hamilton, a total white-bread boy from the East Coast, a pot-smoking suburbanite, a ruddy faced trombone playing music major whom Martin knew immediately would be easy to get along with, but never really be a great friend.

And that’s it. Myriad other moments are still there in his mind, looking out that window onto Louise Street, but of all those memories, those that can be honestly verified as originating on that first day: only those three.

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