Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Amory Street

It wasn't long before Mat and I were committed to making a life together, and so by the end of our first summer we were apartment shopping in and around Boston. In what may have been the first financially independent move of my adult life, I cosigned on a two bedroom apartment with my new boyfriend, leaving behind the sheltered luxury of the upperclass suburb where I'd lived while finishing my bachelor's degree. Having been given a more than generous leg up by two sets of aunts and uncles, I had been able to parent my toddler and graduate from college from the comfort of a very nice apartment on a shaded street of stately historic homes. It was with only a hint of trepidation that I packed up for the real world of Roxbury, Massachusetts, famous for it's diversity, it's MBTA Orange Line, and it's prominent role in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.

Our move to the ghetto does sound like the stage for hilarious tribulations and heartbreaking trials, but, all in all, I remember the Amory Street apartment fondly. Yes, there was a man urinating on the building when I showed up for my first look, and yes, a thousand cockroaches did scatter across the kitchen when our manager came to rearrange the cabinets. That said, we never experienced any assault more oppressive than late-night exposure to pounding mariachi music, and the only tragedy that struck during our year in Roxbury was the loss of our cat, Kobah. He slipped out when our well-meaning landlord let himself in for the installation of window screens. His absence, sadly, rendered the screens unnecessary, and the permanence with which he vanished makes me wonder if he wasn't eaten by one of our many urban coyotes. I still wonder if his microchip lays exposed somewhere, the only remaining proof of long-finished digestion.

Our family, less one cat, filled that little apartment nicely. We obscured an oppressive view with a tiered rainforest of houseplants, and my most pervasive visual memory from that time is of sunlight filtering through variegated greenery. Mat and I both worked several jobs, but our dwelling felt like home.

Happy though I was, I had been warned about Roxbury's criminal element, and concerned friends offered tips on everything from mace to jiu-jitsu when they heard that I tended to work late. Getting off the subway at Jackson Square never struck me as unsafe, and I only suffered one trauma during my regular 11 pm commute. It was the fault, not of the neighboring tenement residents, but of my own growing pesticide sensitivity.

One winter evening, having stripped the leaves and thorns from perhaps a thousand roses in anticipation of Valentine's Day, I left my employer's floral shop with a pounding headache and a rash on both arms. By the time I reached my stop on the Orange Line, I was experiencing my first, and worst, full fledged migraine, complete with auditory and visual effects. I lay on the sidewalk, in the privacy of a quiet junkyard alley, and cried into the coolness of the pavement until I felt ready to walk the remaining block to home. In defense of my neighbors and the neighborhood, I must say that I was neither robbed nor raped during that self-pitying wallow.

 . . . . to be continued . . .


  1. Getting to know you and Fenway with interest from my place on the plains of eastern Colorado. I love your plants!

  2. Thank you! I had to leave many of them with relatives when we moved from the East Coast, but I had some great ones from having worked as a florist . . . my favorite was my ming aralia.


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