Walking and talking

On the short train ride today between the Kendall Square and Park Street stations, so many conversations about our intentions — to be or make something, go somewhere, decide, give up, let go — were on my mind. As I walked up the stairs from the lower platform to the main one, and then up into the mid-day sun, I arrived at this:

Let’s no longer talk of the things we want to do. Let’s do them.

A four-piece brass band was playing at the mouth of Winter Street. The guys were older and paunched, all wearing yellow vests, and they enthusiastically tootled “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. It was wonderfully done. I looked, but there was no cup on the sidewalk collecting change. One song, and they left.

If you want to make music, make it.

art over Winter Street

On Mondays, I usually go to the Starbucks on Winter and get a cup of coffee and the fruit-and-cheese bistro box for lunch before heading up to GLAD. Walking there, I saw a man with a beautiful, muscled body walking up the middle of the street from downtown. Otherwise bare, he wore only tan shorts and flip flops, and as we neared each other I could see that his face had been burned and later treated with skin grafts — it was like melted wax, smoothed and cooled, but the eyes dark and liquid and still piercingly human.

Perhaps this is what you do when your face, your badge, is odd: you flaunt the body.

In the hot windowless office and with the fan inexplicably aimed to blow air out into the hallway, I answered the telephone again and again. I said to Ruth, the volunteer who sits near me, “It’s the week of the holiday — aren’t people happy?” We chuckled, dryly.

At 4:30pm, after I logged all my calls and answered one prisoner letter, I got back on the train and stood there with the door open for 15 minutes. Finally the conductor announced that there was a disabled train at the Harvard Square station, and our train for some reason was taken out of service. We disembarked. I stood on the hot, crowded platform for five minutes. There was no announcement as to when an in-service train would arrive. I texted Jimmy and said I might walk back to the car, parked two miles away in the MIT garage where I usually park.

Sometimes, when you say “might,” you might as well do.

I went upstairs, against all the commuters still trying to force their way downstairs into the mob. I cut diagonally across the Common and crossed over to Charles Street. It was hot — I guessed 88 degrees, maybe higher — but it was breezy and actually cool in the patches of shade.

I walked across the Longfellow Bridge from Boston to Cambridge. The view from the crest of the bridge can also be seen when you’re on the train; it never fails to startle and please me when we rise from underground and the river, sailboats, expanse of sky, the Back Bay, and Beacon Hill and even the bridge turrets bloom into panoramic view. My heart always fills. Today, as I walked across the bridge, I stopped at every lookout point — I think there were six jutting out like balconies from the bridge walkway — to look back at Boston from a slightly different vantage point. (It looks something like this: link.)

On the other side of the bridge, a young woman with sunglasses and silky straight hair in a ponytail asked me if she was going in the right direction for the Kendall Square station.

“It’s ahead. You’re almost there,” I said and pointed.

“I live in Cambridge, but I’m always getting around on the train, so I lose my bearings above ground,” she informed me.

We fell into step. It was nice that we strangers could walk together comfortably without much talking. Still, I learned that she was also on foot because of the disabled train. Like me, she is thrilled on a daily basis by the view of the city from the bridge. She sees it from the train window or when she runs across the bridge with her running group.

We headed together, temporary companions, to the train station. “Goodbye and good luck,” I said. “You too,” she said.

In the car on the way home it felt good to have the cold air blowing on me, drying my damp t-shirt. I remembered the line that had occurred to me as I exited the Park Street station on the way to my GLAD shift, and I revised it.

We need both: talking and doing.

P.S. Have you seen this movie, Walking and Talking (1996), which is the inspiration for my title? I recommend it.

5 thoughts on “Walking and talking

  1. To be honest, Jane, there has been nothing like a city to show this country girl that doing needs nothing more than to be done. That seems a bit counter to all the things we’re told about living in cities or living in rural areas–that the real doing gets done in dirt and with livestock and heart-breaking margins of profit (read: breaking even). I’m not knocking what we can know from living among fields and roads with no lines on them; they’ve been some of my best teachers ever, and I doubt what they’ve shown me could be substituted by or intuited from anywhere else. Still, my heart always fills on that ride, too: at what I get to see for half a minute… and what I’d get to see if I let myself be fully in charge of my motion.

    • Perhaps by “doing” I mean acting, rather than simply planning, hoping, observing. It’s probably easier to avoid “doing” in the city than in the country, but there is plenty of doing to be done in both places for sure.

      Usually on Mondays I let myself be conveyed by the T from one place to another. After yesterday, I hope to walk back and forth to my shift at GLAD, slow down, and enjoy that view.

      Also underlying this post is my worry that, on some days, I talk more about my plans for my writing than actually writing my writing. So, there’s that too.

  2. Pingback: Same route, different thoughts | leaf – stitch – word

  3. When I lived in Boston, my favorite part of going “downtown” was that climb out of the ground and across the Longfellow Bridge (and I loved that Target ad that was animated by the moving train just before the bridge…brilliant idea). The sun was always startling and shook you awake from your socially prescribed zone-out on the train.

    My favorite part of that view was watching the little sailboats working their way around by the sailing school. I used to sail with my mom, who used to race when she was young. I always wanted to learn properly, but haven’t done so. Maybe this is the clarion call I need to “do it.” Thanks for lovely letter from up north!

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