On the plane to Boston, the woman on my left keeps punching me. She'll be sleeping soundly one moment, and in the next her body spasms and she throws her arms out to either side, one into the aisle, one into my rib cage. "Night terrors," she explains, chuckling. "Feel free to clock me right back!" I smile, turn deliberately back to my magazine. In some strange show of rebellion against my own common sense, I've bought $20 worth of magazines for the flight.
The woman dozes off again. She's a big lady, wearing clunky sandals over white cotton socks. There are a few moments of peace: she sleeps, I read, until we hit a little bump in the atmosphere and she startles again, punching me in the gut. "Oh, sorry!!" She exclaims, straightening in her seat, smoothing her skirt with her hands. I expect her to close her eyes and return to her terrors, but she doesn't. Instead, she rotates her body, turns her head to the side and studies me like a good natured auntie. Under her plump, matronly gaze, I feel my face redden as I turn the pages of Cosmo's Are You Ready for Kink cover feature. I wish I was able to just go on reading in the face of her eavesdropping, like some slightly skewed show of 21st century feminism, but I'm not. I close the magazine and shove it into the seat back, trying to seem casual, and reach under the seat to pull out a box of pizza. "Oh, wow!" she says, genuinely impressed. "You just pulled out a pizza box from under your seat! Now I've seen everything!"
The woman to my right, lucky bitch in the blessed window seat, dutifully ignores the both of us.
Boston is hard as ice. Mid-March is a monstrous time to come home to New England, yet year after year I return. In high school and college it was the ill-timed spring break; now it's just out of habit. Spring is still months away in this part of the country, buried under three feet of defiant, black rimmed, gritty snow that will cut you like a razor if you lose your footing.
I've just missed the 4:30 bus back to Vermont and have two hours to wait until the next one. It doesn't bother me; I've just flown across the entire continent in slightly over four hours, which is so ludicrously fast it feels like cheating. I park myself at the bar in Legal sea foods, order a cocktail I really think I want. It arrives syrupy, so sweet it feels like it's burning holes in my esophagus. I send it back for a beer. The bar tender eyes me with obvious annoyance, but he obliges. An older man approaches me, business suit and a Bluetooth, and wants to talk to me about my tattoo. I tell him politely to leave me alone. He shrugs, walks off.
With twenty minutes until the bus (I am fastidiously timely when I travel- only when I travel-) I lope out to the lower level of Logan airport, terminal C, and lower myself on the one portion of a bench that is not covered in spilled, gelatinous coke. I throw my feet over my backpack and open the magazine again, finally, grateful of my anonymity.
Cosmo suggests one watches Lady Gaga's music video Alejandro to gauge one's comfort level with moderate levels of Kink.
The feathery grey twilight slips away, and the cold takes a more definite stance in the air. I look up hopefully with every loud, steaming commuter bus that pulls up in front of me: Concord, Framingham, Manchester, Cape Cod. One by one, drivers hop out to the curb and call out the destinations with caustic Boston accents. Manchetsta- Con'cud. The people around me climb on board and head off to different corners of New England.
My bus is late- first by twenty minutes, then by an hour, then by two. The Dartmouth Coach has never been late, ever, to my knowledge. I have to go to the bathroom, so badly, it's like being a little kid again. But I can't go. I can't risk being absent during the twenty seconds when the bus arrives. I give up waiting on the bench, it's below freezing now, and snowing. Inside the sliding glass doors, others bound for Vermont wait in silence. Stoic New Englanders, they just stand there, waiting. The bus will get here when it does. Even the kids stand there, hands on tiny wheeled suit cases, faces slack.
When it finally arrives, two drivers hop out. "Sorry folks!" one shouts. "This is Chahlie. Chalie's bus broke down, folks. He had to jump on mine. Don't blame me about this, it's not my fault." Then, after a considerable pause- "It's not Chahlie's fault eitha'."
As we drive North, the snowstorm gets heavier. We crawl along in the left lane and I rest my cheek against the cold glass, road vibrations bumping me into a trance. No one is speaking. All that can be heard is the steady sweep sweep sweep of wiper blades against the windshield. The world outside is thick with snowflakes and unrecognizable: somewhere between Boston and Lebanon, New Hampshire. All I know, is that every minute takes me some place closer to home than I was the minute before.