The starless night sky is deepened by the fluorescence of the Boston high-rise lights. Amongst the beauty of this man-made empire that Bostonians have come to respect and admire is an overwhelming sense of confinement. Looking upward reveals a dark abyss that swallows even the most positive of outlooks. There’s no mystery to the city. There’s no starlight to gaze at when feeling philosophical. There is no questioning of what is out there or what is bigger than myself. Everything just is.
In the winter months I would go for an early morning walk, long before the sun rose and the morning rush continued its endless cycle. I’d walk through deserted Longwood streets, illuminated to a yellow haze. The Harvard courtyard is motionless and the granite buildings look cold and ghostly, yet beautiful and majestic. It is when the streets are empty that they have the most life.
As I’d walk I would pause on the Harvard Medical marble staircase. The view from this side of the campus was very different than I usually saw. There’s a run down coffee shop with its door barred. Out front is a yellow sign with a crooked pole cemented into the walkway that reads “Baby Drop Zone: Checked By Boston FD Daily”. Around the corner is a homeless man sleeping on a bench; he’s curled up seeking protection from the cold.
On my way back home to the Emmanuel College campus I had to walk several blocks around the wrought iron fence. “This is ironic,” I said, because the sole reason I ventured to the city in the first place was to find freedom. Construction projects blocked all but the main entrance to the campus. I walked around the bus stop and the Children’s Hospital to the main gate. To my surprise I was hassled by security upon entering. Emmanuel’s president, a Nun from a different era, had taken it upon herself to keep her students protected from the drugs and drunkenness of a city. The very place I chose to seek freedom was deciding what was best for me without my consent. “I’m glad you think of me as a liability,” I told the security officer, “but I live here.”
That night, rounding the corner of the stairwell to my second floor room, out of the window I saw the first act of humanity in months. A Bostonian offered a blanket to the homeless man sleeping on the concrete bench. Only then did the starless sky begin to look more expansive and welcoming.
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