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the green line

November 20, 2019

the green line trolley rumbles past park street | bolyston | arlington | copley
     | hynes convention center | kenmore | fenway | longwood | brookline village
     | brookline hills | beaconsfield | reservoir | chestnut hill
each stop blurring one into another
a boston policeman sitting silent next to me
stiff cap pointed badge crisp jacket black boots eyes forward
my parents anxiously awaiting outside newton center station

               i am eleven

(45 minutes ago)

i do what i always do locked in routine

"go down into the station
     put the fare in the fare box
          spin through the turnstile
               turn right / stairs down
                    the tunnel beneath the tracks
                         connecting east to west and home"

the station quiet and empty
i turn to take the first step down
they surround me from the tunnel's shadows
ten boys maybe twelve, buzzing with excitement
one pushes me and another and then 
a hand clamps over my mouth
     (in that moment a memory burns:
     fingers rough on my lips
     sticky smell a sweaty palm
     a burst of terror
     unable to breath)

they pull me wrestling down the stairs
smothered mouth screams tears panic and then
in a moment
	a shout from across the tracks
		they scatter into the shadows

the policeman must have appeared
or perhaps a ticket seller or passerby
i remember nothing and will never know
seconds minutes hours?
my mind erased by each stolen breath

and after a time sitting silent on the green line trolley

(50 minutes ago)

i do what I always do locked in routine

"go from mcdonald’s to the park street station
      don’t cross the street go into the station
          go down the stairs into the tunnel and under the tracks
               that’s how you go home"

my heart is still racing
when they reappear
ten boys, maybe twelve, laughing 
surrounding me blocking the station entrance

“where are you going?”
     “leave me alone!” my shy voice trembling

again they disappear
so I step down

(60 minutes ago)

i do what i always do locked in routine

"after choir practice grab dinner next door 
     at mcdonald’s
          twenty should be plenty
               remember to bring home change!"

when turning from the counter
my tray full of dinner two boys approach
“are you alone?”
     “yes” my shy voice trembles
     (knowing "yes" is the wrong answer)

and then they are gone
leaving me alone with dinner
sweat tickling down my neck

(65 minutes ago)

i do what i always do locked in routine

"grab dinner before coming home
	     mcdonald's is next door"

i walk out of the cathedral church of st. paul
stone steps carved from boston's downtown
breathing in crisp fall air
choir practice hymns ringing in my ears

i am ready for dinner and the green line home

               it was wednesday
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