It had been a difficult week, with many things weighing on my mind that are hard to put into words. When I woke up in the morning, something made me decide to visit Christopher Columbus. Something told me that he would understand, even though he is not technically alive.
So I took the train to Boston. Upon getting out at Haymarket, I noticed that many things were different from the last time I was there. The Government Center garage was almost completely dismantled, with a huge yellow crane towering over the scene. A glass skyscraper emblazoned with the words “State Street” loomed nearby. There was also a new row of buildings, containing a Gordon Ramsay burger restaurant, in the area where fruit vendors set up their stands on Fridays and Saturdays.
All of these changes, combined with the constant stream of foot traffic flowing around me, caused me to start feeling overstimulated. It was hot and sunny, and I felt dizzy and tired.
I also began to get nervous about Chris himself. He had not officially been unveiled in his new location, and the finishing touches were still being put on the space, so I didn’t know what the setup would be. I didn’t know how publicly visible (if at all) he would be, or how the courtyard would be configured around him. I expected that I would have to do a bit of searching in order to find him, and I was concerned that I might attract curious stares or (God forbid) questions from passerby. I figured there was also a possibility he wouldn’t be publicly visible at all, and I would have made the trip into Boston for nothing.
Despite this, I crossed over the Rose Kennedy Greenway and into the North End. The narrow streets were filled with people going about their business: tourists taking selfies, kids in matching t-shirts who appeared to be on some sort of field trip, businesspeople rushing to work, young people in trendy activewear returning home from their workouts, employees wheeling boxes of various food products into restaurants. While making my way through the bustling streets, I looked to my left in search of the correct side street to turn onto. To my surprise, there he was, his familiar white marble form unmistakable.
The sight of him took my breath away.
I was not expecting Chris to be so easy to find.
In fact, the sighting of my beloved statue was so unexpected that instead of turning onto that side street, I continued with the flow of foot traffic, not wanting to abruptly change direction and cut people off. I decided to first check out the view of Chris from the opposite direction, and then to circle back. So I ended up on a shady, somewhat secluded street, where an old man sat on some porch steps, chatting on his cell phone. He looked up briefly when he saw me, but quickly turned his attention back to his conversation. Down a short alley and behind a black, metal fence was Chris. Only his back was visible from this view. He stood beside a brick building, presumably the new headquarters for the Knights of Columbus Ausonia Council, which also contains apartments for low-income seniors. I snapped a few shots, then headed back to see my friend from the front.
I returned to the main drag, and then turned onto the side street down which I had glimpsed Chris before. In stark contrast to the bustling streets surrounding it, the little lane was deserted, with the exception of several parked construction vehicles and a lone pedestrian who soon disappeared through the door of an apartment building.
In almost eerie silence, and beneath the baking sun, I was alone with Chris.
His face had the same pensive look that I remembered, his arms still crossed sternly across his chest. He stood atop a simple granite pedestal, anchored to the ground with concrete. The area around him was bare and stark, the vacant asphalt expanse devoid of any flowers or landscaping. There was no noise other than a county song playing faintly in the distance. A piece of clear plastic wrap, still clinging to his torso, stirred briefly in a faint breeze.
I was struck by the contrast between Chris’s quiet, seemingly deserted new home and the crowded, noisy streets surrounding it. I was also struck by the seeming indifference of those crowds of people: sightseeing, laughing, chatting, strolling, and working, none of them displaying any outward indication that they cared one iota whether Chris existed or not. No acknowledgement that standing tall in their midst was the marble embodiment of the pain that has tormented me for three years, changed my life completely, and on more than one occasion nearly ended it.
Thanks to a black metal fence, adorned with “no trespassing” signs, I could get no more than about 30 feet from Chris. Hopefully that fence, along with several security cameras nearby, will keep him safe. But the fence did not block him from view. I took pictures from various angles and simply stood and looked at him for a while.
Do you remember me? I thought. I remember you. You haven’t changed at all. This city has changed, though. This city hates you. It hates me too. So we’re the same.
Are you happy here? I wondered. Are you in pain? Are you angry at what happened to you? Are you sad that you’re not in the park anymore? Do you miss it?
It was nearly noon, the sun almost directly overhead and the pavement baking beneath my feet.
What do you think about this weather? I wondered Do you like the sun beating down like this? I thought about my Stonewall Jackson statue, and how beautifully he shines when the sun warms his bronze surface. I bet you do. Statues like the hotness. Yeah, you do.
It’s been nice to see you, I thought, as if Chris could somehow hear me (and as if it’s perfectly normal to try to telepathically send your thoughts to a statue). Stonewall Jackson sends his regards. I think you’d like him, if you could meet him.
All right, I’ll be back.
I glanced back at him one more time, sending a silent farewell, before making my way down the deserted side street and rejoining the crowds teeming down the main thoroughfare.
Don’t get me wrong: I am still angry at what happened to Chris. It is an injustice, and always will be. I was upset when I first saw photos of Chris, with his head once more attached to him, at his new location. Upset because the images confirmed his eviction from his rightful place, and because others had learned the news before I did (I saw the photos on social media two days after they were posted).
But spending a few moments with Chris lifted my spirits and was good for my soul. I was glad to see him after three years of not being able to do so.