“What do you mean, dood?”
It’s his high holiday. To him, to say anything but “you’re fuckin’ right I do” is an affront to god and Big Papi alike, and I am a sinner. As we walk through the Common, my eyes pass over the graves. I envy the inhabitants that were probably exhumed to make way for the Green Line.
“Who the hell wants to go into the mob and wait 17 minutes to get a spot to try to get a bartender’s attention at every bar in the city, just to drink piss with food coloring in it?” Maybe I’m cynical, but I can’t deal with crowds anymore. It used to be fun. Now it’s just a hassle. Doesn’t anyone work anymore?
“Oh I’m sorry. Did ya mutha nhot hug ya enuf when you were a khid?”
Ugh, this shit again. I’d been friends with Brian long enough to know he’s putting on his accent like it’s supposed to be a selling point, like he’s trying to appeal to my inner Bostonian. Yes, I occasionally slip and let my accent come out with certain words, like garlic, when I’m either drunk or angry. Thankfully, I’m a happy-go-lucky drunk, so I never get to angry-drunk levels and go full Bostonian.
One time I almost apologized to an entire airplane worth of people for the Boston-based flight crew’s accents. I just had to sit there and think, Not all of us sound like that. Some of us are fairly educated.
The city is a nightmare, especially when it’s crowded. Super Bowl victory parade, World Series victory parade, Fourth of July, move-in day at the colleges, Super Bowl victory parade, you name it. Suburbanites are always looking for any excuse to go into Boston, get publicly intoxicated, further congest the already hellish T, and accidentally punch random civilians in the back of the head. Depending on which part of the city they’re from, Bostonians do this on a regular basis. Bruins game, Sox game, Celtics game, whatevah. They crowd the city, they don’t care who they offend as they yell over their overpriced beer induced tinnitus, and they ruin a perfectly okay afternoon.
At the drop of a hat, probably a sports-related championship hat, the city is ready to be overcrowded. But on St. Patrick’s Day things get turned up to eleven, then someone breaks the knob off the amp, throws it at a buddy, misses and hits some douche who started the night looking to fight someone, and green-beer fueled chaos is set loose.
I always hated having to go into the city for class on St. Paddy’s Day, so the thought never crossed my mind to go in “for fun.”
My friend—who has been becoming more of an acquaintance over the years—has been talking for a while, but I don’t need to hear him to know what he’s spewing.
Saint whatever blah blah Hyde Park something his mother blah blah oh and ya have ta drink a—
I just can’t pretend to care about something that isn’t even a greeting card holiday. When’s the last time you’ve seen a Hallmark movie about St. Patrick’s Day? They made 36 new Christmas movies last year—I liked the one where the girl was dating the big city guy with lots of money but then broke up with him because she realized he didn’t really love her but was going through the motions, and that the small town guy with a heart of gold shared a lot of her interests and could actually hold a conversation without it being interrupted by an “important” business call and the old lady in town she just met pushed her into a relationship with the small-town guy who was more handsome than the big city guy anyway—but I didn’t see a single ad for a St. Patrick’s Day movie starring anyone from Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
“Look, Brian.” I probably interrupted him. “Some of us adults actually go to work during the day. You’re closer to 40 than you are to 21—”
“You mean 16?”
“You ever wonder what your life would be like if every holiday wasn’t an excuse to get black out drunk? You might not have to worry about making your next mortgage payment.”
I nearly invoke the name of a religious figure I don’t care about, but then I see a light blue glow coming off someone in the Common. I knew the Blue Man Group was performing nearby, but I didn’t think they just walked out in public to get some cheap advertising. The Playhouse is a few streets away. Granted, it isn’t a long walk, but it’s kinda chilly to be wearing—
Before I can even finish the thought, an arm shoots up, and I see that it isn’t body paint. I see right through the arm. Rushing toward me is what looks like a force ghost if Star Wars was set in ancient Rome. No one else is looking at the old man. Brian is still suffering from verbal diarrhea. I’m standing still, watching this guy make a beeline at me. I’ve snapped. I must have snapped. My left eyebrow lowered while my right eyebrow almost hit my hairline.
“You aren’t going crazy, kid.”
“I’m 36,” I said as my eyebrows switched roles.
“Ugh, I’m so over being told how old people were when they died.”
“You died of a heart attack on a conference call at work. It was tragic until your bowels evacuated. Then it was hilarious. But in a dark humor kind of way. Karen still jokes about how Doug made a request so dumb that you’d rather die than do it. The uncomfortable chuckles are starting to turn into legit guffaws.”
“Who are you?” Okay, maybe I really am dead. Or… I’m probably dreaming. Okay, good. Now that I’m aware that it’s a dream, my mind will take over any second and it’ll become a lucid dream.
“I’m your guide.”
“Guide for what?”
“I knew I had dinner reservations, but is this it?”
“Oh no, we’re going to go explore. What part of “I’m your guide” didn’t you catch? This is purgatory. I’m just picking you up for the tour.”
“Purgatory is Boston Common?” Seems right.
“Your version, yes. Specifically whilst being asked to go to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It’s a torture so light that you kind of think it’s torture, but not really.”
“So are you Virgil, here to guide me through the nine circles?” Am I talking to a ghost?
“Fuck that guy. I’m Boethius. But yeah, pretty much. Same deal.”
“Oh, cool. Poetry’s dumb.” I’m talking to a ghost.
Buddy, I think you and I might just be friends yet.”
Boethius put his arm around my shoulders and we walked toward the center of the Common where a pit opened up. As we get closer I can hear a familiar tune.
“What the hell is that?” I turn my head away, but I keep walking. I know I can’t avoid what’s coming.
“First off, it’s Hell. Second, you know what that is.”
We stood on the edge of the pit. Boethius took his arm off my shoulder. It had to be my choice to move on. With the most annoying song to come out of the 1964 World’s Fair filling my head, I leapt into the pit.