every city tells a story……..

A is for After: B is for Boston (& Beijing)

IMG_1996I am wearing my jacket from THE boston marathon, you know, the blue and yellow one from 2013, the year of the bombing.  It is a sunny day, bright and clear.   The bright yellow blossoms of the forsythia are brilliant against the intense blue of the sky.   My jacket matches the spring and my mood matches the day.  I am in the line at the coffee shop.  Someone runs to catch up with me on the street.   My shoulder is tapped from behind at a networking event.   “Were you there?”  they ask, shy but curious.  “Yes,” I reply and I am reminded.

It took me months before I wore my jacket without ambivalence.  I thought not crossing the finish line meant I hadn’t quite earned it: neither the jacket nor the medal they hung around my neck the day after the day.

Returning home from Boston, I was fragile, a porcelain doll accidentally dropped, no glue held my pieces in place.  I yearned for people I cared about, to hear their voices and hold them close, to breathe their normalcy inIMG_1020_2.

To be fair, Boston and Beijing were tangled together, vines of memories.  More than twenty years prior, by an equally fantastic twist of fate and turn of planetary alignment, I had happened to happen onto the disaster of Beijing on June 3-4, 1989.  One day traveling as a tourist,  the next I was watching transfixed as plumes of foul smelling smoke rose from the direction of the Square.  My then partner, Sail and I huddled around the BBC radio like a campfire shared by strangers, unable to translate the shouting heard from the street.

In the morning, we rode into the square to see for ourselves.  Crowds of frightened people suddenly shifted direction as bullets fired on the opposite side of the square.  I was an insignificant ant so easily trampled, not from malice, but from the powerful force of anarchy unleashed.  Frightened soldiers hovered in corners.  Not the right and wrong soldiers of Western media,  these childlike men were uncertain, and trembling.  x4335800px-United_Boeing_747SP_MaiwaldBlackened bodies hung from bridges. charred and dangling from their make shift nooses.  Small round cubicles riddled with bullets were coated in blood. Overturned buses burst into flames  while citizens ducked behind them for a precarious and uncertain cover, tossing malatov cocktails into the unseen crowd beyond.

By evening, a curfew has been instated and we needed to get home.  Our taxi drove over curbs to drive the sidewalks as streets while fighting armies blocked the way with their gunfire.  But on hearing Gershwin’s Rhapsody once on board the United Airlines plane,  my every cell was filled with a familiar blanket of safety, American capitalism, democracy, Mom and Apple pie.  A movie I would have formerly ridiculed filled me with a longing for my overly sentimental and romantic country where “Things Like This” don’t happen.  At home,  the anarchy of China was safely relegated to the glowing box in my living room.  Yes, I had been there and often woke up crying.  Yes, Saul was perpetually angry but ultimately, the turmoil was in a troubled yet foreign land far far away.

But the bombing in Boston was different.  BostScreen Shot 2014-04-17 at 7.05.51 PMon is as much my home as the cafe around the corner from my flat in Hayes Valley.  I lived there for the seven seminal years after grad school, establishing myself as an adult, making friendships I still nurture and designing buildings that are still visible from the street.  The Boston Marathon was the race i aspired to, the race I set my watch to,  a race that happens on my sister’s birthday.  More than just wanting to participate, I wanted to fly.

Instead, my race in Boston was off.  My training had been battered by things other than running so I was dragging with disappointment at the start line.  By mile 18, I stopped to catch my breath, rubbed my aching knees and sent a text to my family and friends.    “Hurting cowgirl, don’t hurry to the finish line, I’ll be late.

Hoping for a BQ race,   I told my friends to plan on meeting me at the finish line just before 3:00PM.  While my sister stopped to look in a shop window, they heard first one blast and then another.   Miles away, my cell phone got through when the race was suddenly diverted  I walked a few short if confused miles to my friend’s flat reassured by the knowledge that everyone i loved was safe.   I took a long bath, sipped my scotch and vowed to try again tomorrow.


Exhausted by the marathon, disoriented by the chase, I was the drone who never caught her bee.  i returned to the empty square where i had planned to wander among the crowds with my metal blanket wrapped.  Now cordoned off and heavily protected,  armed guards stood by the hospital entrances with their machine guns cocked.  No, this is not Beijing, this is my home.

Back in San Francisco, I flinched at the sounds of cars engines, walked by mailboxes wondering when they might explode.  But when I attended the ballet, I let the strength of the athletic legs envelope me, beautiful muscular legs still attached below the knee.  Jumping, twisting, standing on tiptoe, holding a position seemingly inert, suspended in the air, these legs, still dancing, just like mine were the story.

Life’s every opportunity was precious and I was keenly aware.  With renewed determination, i hit the track with an eye on the clock, pledging my allegiance to speed.  This same imperative ricocheted through my career and relationships with a rattle and a bang.   If I thought of it, I did it.  If I wanted it, I took it.  If I hesitated, I let it go.  If I was willing to try, I gave it my best. I moved through the thoughts and deeds like skiing through the gates on a shalom course, one to the next and the next.  I pushed forward without knowing where i was going and naturally ended up with my face on the wall.  Heartbroken and forlorn,  I injured my knee,  somehow stumbling forward onto opportunity and speaking a truth I had not even known was there.

I grab my marathon jacket before I leave for a party.  I have a new purse that picks up the yellow from the stripes and the unicorn on the back.  I am heading to the bar for a drink, and he taps on my shoulder.   “Were you there?”  he asks, shy but curious.  “Yes,” I reply and I am reminded.
































la de bla bla ala aldnadel andla land

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *