I was raised on the notion that arriving on time is arriving late; so, when Representative Smola asked me to be at the State House at ten, naturally I took the 7:30 train. I saunter up the subway steps, my crimson skirt vivid amongst the commuters adorned in shades of blue and gray. I fidget with the pearls on my necklace, ensuring that the clasp is perfectly hidden at the nape of my neck. Am I overdressed? Interrupting my worries, fresh morning air relieves the sweltering musk of the underground as I emerge from the station. I’ve arrived… an hour early.
My destination- the Massachusetts State House- waits for me just across the street from the Boston Common, a square mile of grass and statues designed to give city dwellers a reprieve from urban life. In the center of the Common lies the epitome of those efforts: Frog Pond. I found myself wandering to the Pond, seeking serenity before the first day of my internship, and then every day after that.
Sometimes I read, more often I wrote, but most of the time I simply sat and thought.
Although there are a dozen or so benches around the pond, I always chose the same one. It wasn’t like that green, chipped-paint, wooden bench was more comfortable than the others or anything; actually, the reason was more a mental preference than a physical one. My bench sits at the far end of the pond, where the morning sun strains to illuminate just half of the seat. (I always sat on the sunny side.) Behind it lies a carousel. I’ve seen it on the weekends, lines of children anxiously awaiting their turn to spin around and around and blissfully ignore the consequent dizziness. But on weekdays, it’s empty, and extraordinarily bleak. So I would sit, habitually, with my back facing it. I much preferred the view that this bench offered me; across the pond and up the hill, I could see the gilded dome of the State House glistening above the trees.
And the pond, well… it’s not so much a pond as a three-inch-deep hole in the ground. But between 9 and 10 on weekday mornings, the “pond” is remarkably peaceful. It’s that golden hour unique to New England summers, when gentle light breathes life into the air. It’s quiet, but “city quiet”, a daytime lullaby of birds chirping, distant horns honking, and incessant conversations humming around me. The cement floor of the pond stares back at me rather than my reflection, and the water is more brownish than blue most of the time. But someone wanted to put a pond where a pond wasn’t, and they did. I like that.
I sit on my bench, resting against its sturdy, familiar back. Given an hour of uninterrupted time, my mind wanders to strange and sometimes metaphorical places. Behind me is the empty carousel that I’m now too old to ride. In front of me, up the hill, is the State House, where I’m likely the youngest in the building. And here I am, on my chipped, wooden bench, in front of the artificial pond, literally halfway between my past and my future. Here I am, savoring that final hour before my next adventure.
When I look at my watch, it’s 9:50. So I stand, facing the bench, brushing out my crimson skirt, taking one last breath of the balmy air and one last look at the carousel. And in this moment, its emptiness doesn’t look so sad. The sun has reached the golden peak at the top of the carousel’s tent, and its rays make the pale horses sparkle. The scene is beautifully empty, a memory now embedded in my mind. I turn away from Frog Pond, and step onto the winding, stone sidewalk, starting my journey up the hill.
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