Thank God for Naps

Jennifer Crystal

Jennifer Crystal

Just two hours earlier, I was having lunch in my building’s community room, off the second floor balcony that overlooks the marathon finish line. Our perch above Boylston Street is a prime spot to watch runners come across the line. From the balcony we can see the flags of so many countries, the flags that, two hours later, symbolically fell to the ground as a bomb went off behind them.

But I wasn’t on the balcony at 2:50pm. I was back upstairs, tucked away in my bed, taking my afternoon nap. It’s a ritual I’ve followed without exception since getting sick with a chronic illness over a decade ago. It saves me from physical and mental meltdown. It allows me to keep going, to get up and put myself back together for the evening, to get up and function the next day. On Monday, it did that in more ways than one.

The first boom woke me from a fuzzy dream. It sounded like 100 trucks rumbling over a bridge. There is construction going on all around my neighborhood; I wondered if a crane had collapsed, or if a wrecking ball had smashed into a building. I lay still, wondering if I should get up, thinking, if I hear sirens, I’ll know it’s something bad. Then the second boom came—slightly louder and closer. I know now that the only thing standing between my apartment and that bomb was the Lord and Taylor building. But at that moment I didn’t know what was happening. There was an eerie silence for what felt like a few moments too long. Then wails. And then sirens. So many sirens. All of that must have happened in the span of a minute.

I texted my friends Paige and Shannon, asking them what that huge noise was. Shannon had been with me at lunch; when I went to take a nap, she met up with Paige. They were going to watch at the finish line, but decided there were too many people, and went to our friends John and Michael’s house, a few blocks away, instead. Paige called and said they hadn’t heard the noise from there. I said, “It sounded like a military fly-over, or like something exploded.” Then the phone went dead. Meanwhile the sirens. So many sirens. The screams.

I turned on the TV. Breaking news, it said. Explosions at Boylston and Dartmouth, next to the Boston Public Library. That’s my address, I thought. I’m at Boylston and Dartmouth, next to the Boston Public Library. I didn’t know if I should stay put or go outside and run. I felt something like fear, but not heightened the way you’d expect. Just a small adrenaline rush telling me to get moving. I changed out of my sweatpants, put on a bra and my glasses, made a mental inventory of what essentials I would need: medicine, wallet, computer. The computer? I second guessed myself. Yes, the computer. I’m a writer; I wasn’t leaving my manuscript behind.

When the announcement came over the PA that our building was being evacuated, I put those things together in a bag, laced up my sneakers, grabbed a fleece, and followed the throngs of people headed towards Huntington Ave. No one ran. Everyone was relatively calm, except for the police officers who ordered us to hurry, to not stop.

Across Huntington, people did stop. They turned and faced Boylston, watching. I smelled the smoke, but did not turn. I pushed through the crowd until I was safely behind the Marriott, on the quiet pedestrian-only streets that head towards John and Michael’s house in the South End. The phones weren’t working; I knew I couldn’t call to say I was coming; I knew that wouldn’t matter. I hadn’t brushed my hair; that wouldn’t matter, either. I knew I was heading to be with people I love, who love me. I knew I was heading to safety. I knew John would take me in, no questions asked. I didn’t know he’d have leftover turkey and mashed potatoes in the fridge for dinner; that he’d tuck me in on the couch later with a hug and kiss good night; that Michael would make me oatmeal for breakfast in the morning. I didn’t know, but I could have; I wasn’t surprised.

That first night, all I could think of were the wails, those awful wails of people in shock, sounding like children who had waited a moment to decide if they were hurt and then screamed for help. But now all I can hear is the silence before the wails. That awful, awful silence.

 

Jennifer Crystal is pursuing her M.F.A. at Emerson College. She specializes in medical writing and travel writing, and writes a syndicated blog for lymedisease.org and tbdalliance.org. Visit her website here.

1 Comment

  1. As always, Jen, you make the reader really feel the emotions… beautiful piece.

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