Boston hit me hard.
I’ve never had anything less than the proper amount of sorrow for any of the mass killings that turn the name of a place into the name of a horror for months and years after.
Newtown. Aurora. Fort Hood. Virginia Tech. NIU. Tucson. Columbine. I never did less than mourn them all.
But Boston slammed my face into the wall. Boston made me meek inside and angry. Boston was the one I couldn’t shrug off enough to continue the day.
Boston made me mumble something about errands while I walked out of the office at 3:45 on Monday. Boston took me to the State Street Bridge where I stood in the middle and watched a boat approach.
It was the Linnea, a massive tourist number owned by a place I used to work. I thought of more complicated times.
I must have been distracted, because I notice everything, or at least think I do.
I can tell you a day later which fingers the man next to me on the train was missing, what length hair the CTA street guitarist had and how many people were in line in front of me at Einstein’s Bagels that morning (a woman with bright blue eyes and a patterned wool jacket was in front of me to order and a graying Asian man with glasses and a slight stoop was waiting for his sandwich from a woman with a stick-n-poke tattoo half-concealed by her right sleeve).
But I didn’t notice this guy sidle up to me.
“You want to give them something to wave at?” he asked me.
He was a young Latino man, maybe anywhere from 17-24. He wore a black jacket and black track pants and had his sunglasses sort of tucked on the back of his head. I took half a step back and touched my breast pocket to see if my wallet was still there.
I did. It happened. I’m not proud.
He smiled and turned toward the approaching Linnea.
“Just wave at them,” he said. “Even if you don’t know anybody on there.”
I turned to stand next to him and, shoulder to shoulder, we waved. The Linnea surged forward, slicing the water neatly around its bow.
“Sometimes you’ll get a few people,” he said. “If not, we can yell at-”
“We got one!” I yelled.
As the boat kept its surge toward us, a gray-haired man standing on the starboard side of the wheelhouse with a camera around his neck looked up, saw us and started waving back. This alerted his gray-haired wife, who we only saw wave for a moment before she disappeared below the bridge.
As the boat continued to slide under us, a woman sitting sideways on a plastic chair looked up and waved too. There were about 15 people on the top deck. The woman laughed aloud when she saw us. She wore a red coat.
On the bridge, the young man and I laughed.
“That was awesome,” I said more than once.
We made our goodbyes.
At the train station, a young woman in a circle of four friends playfully grabbed another friend by the chin to make him say things he wasn’t. The redheaded woman I would later see kicking the pavement by the Algren fountain danced to herself listening either to her iPod or the CTA street guitarist who whipped an electric frenzy. His sandy hair would have gone down to his shoulders if not for his ponytail.
On the train, a man missing four fingers below the second knuckles on his left hand stood next to me. He bopped his head as the train went on.
In times of pain, of tragedy, of the mass sorrow we’re becoming too used to, in times of running to Twitter for moment-by-moment updates, mostly lies, and flashes of anger when someone makes a joke too soon and we change our Facebook statuses to well-wishes because we don’t know what to do, it’s hard to remember there’s good in the world.
It’s hard to remember that it exists, much less what it was. It’s hard to remember there’s joy and peace and weird guys on bridges who want to reach out to strangers not to hurt them, but just to wave hello.
It’s hard to see all the quiet, forgettable good in the world, even if you think you notice everything.