I LOVE YOU, I HATE YOU, I LOVE YOU, NO, I HATE YOU, YOU CONFUSE ME, I LOVE YOU
NEW ENGLAND! MY OTHER SPOUSE
By Shannon Kirk
Dear New England,
I’m crabby, but I’m dazzled. I hate you, but I’ll defend you to the death, Babe. I’m wicked pissed you screw me ova with your dumb, useless, damp, cold Springs, but I feel like a lucky Queen for livin’ in your friggin rainbow every Fawl. You abuse me, New England. I’m a battered lover. You treat me so cruel, but then deliver me a pre-cracked lobsta some fisherman neighbor yanked from the ocean an hour ago, with melted butta, and a cold beer to boot. Emphasis on cold, ‘cuz we ain’t nothin’ like mutha England, our beers are always freezin’ friggin cold. Just like our fingers eight months a year, and our souls when outsiders try to do our accent and fail.
You do this to me, New England. You spin me in some emotional Nor’easter, making me love you, then hate you, and confusing me, minute to minute. But you can’t break me, Babe. I grew up playin’ in a thirty-foot-deep granite quarry where the junk yard dumped cyclone fences and Pontiacs, and I lived. You made me feral. You made me a hard-ass New Englander. I can sense any of your nasty storms comin’ just by sniffin’ your air. When you smell like Brillo pads and your sky is a certain hue of blue-gray, I know I best make sure there’s gas in the snow blowa. Real New Englanders don’t need no Al Kaprielian weather-manning them through the day, but we’d watch him anyway for a dose of his jocular weirdness. Whenever Al K., or whoever has tried to replace him (can’t), shouts about your “high pressah” or how you might throw a hissy fit—maybe you’re about to lay down a hurricane—we give a collective chuckle and hum a lazy “Whateva.” A blinding blizzard? I’ll just grab a rusty school chair we took from the dumpsta and mark our cah’s territory on the street, the one they pave in patches every Godforsaken Spring, only to lose every Winter to your pot holes and frost heaves. You can kiss my ass, New England, for all your games. But I love you.
Now, take a seat, let’s chill, we need to tawk. Here’s a bowl of my Ma’s chowda with clams from Glos’ta (not Glou-chester), some cider pie from your goody-two-shoes, always-perfect child, Vermont, and a Sam’s Summa with a friggin Floridah orange slice. Speaking of Floridah and the mecca, Disney, we can be there in three short hours on Southwest, fly right out’a that rat’s nest they call Logan. I know you allowed your evil army of city planners to build the circular confusion around Logan as a psychological test. You wanted to measure how long it takes to aggravate masses of people. Anyway, whateva, any New Englander can be takin’ selfies with Mickey and Minnie in three hours, same time it takes to slow-roll ten feet in the Gillette Stadium pahkin lot after a Pats game.
Ah, she-it. Dammit!
I said the holy word: Pats. Which means, per New England law, I’m required to perform an elaborate knees-to-ground/head-to-cahpet chant for Gisele’s husband, Sir Thomas Edward Patrick “Tom” Brady, Jr. Hold on, I need to step away from the computah for a second.
Okay, you settled, Babe? You got your bounty of chowda and pie and beer I gave you so you’ll shut up for once. I got a few things to say, New England. All about why I love you and why I hate you and why I don’t understand you and you confuse the fuck out me, but I can’t imagine life without you. We must be married.
The Accent, Confusion
Let’s staht with the accent. True story: I was in the salad dressin’ aisle in Mahket Basket with my boy son the otha day and no joke, for reals, this is what we ovaheard from the boxed rice aisle, “Gina, you won’t believe it. Listen to this! My friggin dawta, she hurls vahhmits all ova my cah in the backseat, like she got that E-bowl-ah thing. You know, the virus. No shit.”
My boy son elbowed me, pausing us at the cap of the aisle, right in front of the display with actual real bread from the best baker on the North Shore, Virgilio’s. Everyone knows that if you want real actual food at a good price and made by legit human bakers you go to Mahket Basket. And since everyone knows this, the joint’s always packed, so if you want the real stuff, you got to get there early. Anyway, my boy son and I were there early and eavesdroppin’ on this Ebola story. I stretched my arm fast to the Virgilio’s display to my side, even though I was frozen by the conversation. I needed to listen, but also snatch the last loaf of Italian, before a squat woman with a nose mole and nineteen biceps beat me to it. I snagged it with a half second to spare. Mole lady glared at me, I glared back, and since our inner souls detected us both to be true New Englanders, we neutralized each other, like bakin’ soda to heartburn.
“Mom, is that what we sound like?” My boy son asked, referring to the Ebola conversation in the next aisle. His tone was innocent and curious, as if he really needed to know what, in fact, we sound like to people outside of the tri-state area.
I shifted my lingering predator glare from the mole lady to a quick bug-eye to my boy. This was a teachable moment, about what, I don’t know. Because you confuse me, New England, with this accent. I have no clue how you came to be. I gave the best scientific answer I could make up on the spot, “In our minds we sound like that. But since we lived a few years in Chicago, the other extreme of accents, our voicebox translator leveled our voices out. Now we sound like robots to everyone.”
“Oh, okay. Hey, Mom…”
“That lady is taking the bread out of our cart.”
Why, New England, do your winds twist this cadence from native tongues? When did this start? How? It doesn’t sound like any of the voices in mutha England. Not like the Pilgrims talked. Not like anything at all. I called a language doctor from Ha-vud to ask these questions, Dr. Drahp R. ElongateA, and he said, “No friggin ide-ah, Honey.”
So this confuses me. I think in this accent, but I don’t enunciate this way out loud. I think this is because I grew up in you, New England, then tried to leave you in several attempted break-ups by moving around the country, only to come crawlin’ back and beggin’ you to let me come home to you. And you always let me, you sweetheart. I hate you. But dammit, I do love you. When I hear my fellow New Englanders drop their R’s and elongate their A’s, it stops me, for sure. So maybe this makes me love you again, because the rhythm sedates me into a known comfort, and pauses me to listen. And when I listen, I always get a good story. Sometimes fantastically exaggerated stories, like the “Ebow-la” story, sometimes beautiful stories, like the guy who found a stack of marshland paintings in his mother’s Ipswich Colonial, and found out that she hid how she was a local painter of local scenes. Sometimes heartbreaking stories, like the gut-wrenching college break-ups I’ve witnessed in downtown Boston, not once, but three separate times. With so many college students, the odds are high for heartbreak.
Commuting into downtown Boston, Hate
There’s no otha way to say this, New England. There is one insurmountable issue we will never get ova, a terrible attribute you can’t fix: the streets and public transportation of downtown Boston. Nope. Don’t even try to persuade me back to joy with our routine of delicacies from two different donut joints on the same morning: a delicious Kane’s donut washed down with a Dunkin’ Donuts reg-ya-la. Can you romance me with a cloistered night at the best hotel in Boston, The Four Season, and a Magic 106.7 love song dedication from David Allan Boucher? Maybe. But I’m gonna want a room with a view of Boston Commons, with her bountiful billows of willow trees, picturesque ponds, teams of sweet swans, and that brass family of ducks. Stop!
I see what you’re doing. No! It’s not going to work this time, New England! I’m mad!
I was so mad at you this afternoon, because of your damn varicose veins—the streets of Boston—and your archaic subway system, designed by the pilgrims and not updated since. Grrrrrr. Anyone who ever says how much they “just love” the “idea” of visiting Boston makes the rest of us who work here roll our eyes. Clearly these tourists never have to commute into Back Bay. Instead of saying “Go to Hell” in a fight, you can just the same shout, “Go take the Green Line.” Yeah, I was wicked pissed today, for sure. Took me 45 friggin minutes to get from the jagged concrete crater hole they call North Station to the Pru due to your illogical, twisted, veiny streets and that damn tin-can, the Green Line. And why did your demon army of city planners decide it was a genius idea to rip up the entire front of North Station AND ALSO allow the construction of a high-rise hotel at the same time, and yet leave no logical way for humans to leave or arrive at North Station? See, if any writer writing about Boston in current times says, “And then they arrived at the train station and hailed a taxi or called an Uber.” Bzzzzzzzzzzzz! Wrong!
Impossible. Ain’t happenin’. Also, the writer really should include the specifics on which train station: North or South, big difference, but same frustration.
I can tell when a writer, whether script or novelist, hasn’t really lived in Boston. If, for example, they nonchalantly write about some character “taking the T” and then move on, I know right away. First off, an informed piece will specify the color of the T: red, orange, DEVIL green, so on. This indicates the level of pain the reader should imagine feeling, which is universally bad. Second, the writer should have the character reflect on the instant homicidal rage felt in traveling on any color of T line: rage at the rust, the disrepair, the jarring turns sending angry passengers into angry passengers, the ubiquitous college students who DON’T HAVE ANY COMMON DECENCY when wearing the extra persons they apparently cart on their backs, but call backpacks.
Am I cranky? Yes. Do I hate you? Yes. But I also love you, New England, you know I do. Because…
Summa and Fall, Love
I’ll foreva love you always, New England, no matta how bad you treat me, because after I deal with your poorly-designed roadways and your tortuous transit system, I leave downtown. If it’s Summa or Fawl, I am usually immediately calmed. Sometimes I’m profoundly inspired. Just yesterday, I had to stop my run because all around me on the path, the shrubs and trees and bushes were in a literal rainbow. I was ensconced in a real true tangible rainbow, and it was friggin beautiful, Babe.
When people write of “leaf-peeping” and the “kaleidoscope of Fall,” those words don’t really convey what I’m talking about. I’m talking about standing in the middle of vegetation holding every conceivable color in the highest of def. You can touch the saturation, smell the colors. Not green, no, lime, like real lime green. Like a thousand limes melted and dripped on the Catbrier leaves. Not red, no, I mean red. Like shiny red delicious apples also melted into a silky liquid for Blue Jays and Cardinals to paint the Maples and the Oaks. And magenta too. And yellow like Ronald McDonald’s outfit. And purple, like cartoon grapes. And orange, like genetically engineered oranges, they melted too.
And this color is all over, mixed and blended perfect, and I get to stand in it, not blankly look at a flat rendition of it on the wall at the Museum of Fine Ahhts (which is free on Wednesday nights), or long for it by running a finger over a pamphlet you offer at one of your 900 rest stops, New England. Maybe the pamphlet is from a New Hampshire rest stop off I-95, which might also be one of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s liquor stores. Just another of your confusing, vexing ways, New England. Live Free or Die.
But that’s not the point.
Leaves of crazy color float down and land in soft thumps, like a cloud of Skittles appeared overhead and slow-burst. And sometimes, this happens in synch with a sunset so outrageous, pinks and purples and oranges over a navy sea, I am literally heartbroken. Like my heart is crushed. Friggin crushed. And in Summa, the sunsets are even worse, more heartbreaking, more breathtaking.
You are the worst of lovers, New England. You tantalizing color-master, brushing my skin with glorious nature, raising my senses so high, I might go insane for you. I might do anything for you. All this makes me love you all over again. Your salty air, and salty tongue. Your seasonal colors, and your colorful people. Your heartbreaking sunsets, and your heartbreaking stories. So yes, I do love you.
Still, you’re not off scott-free, Babe. I just can’t see me forgiving you for the Boston streets or public transit. Well, there’s maybe one thing that might coax me into an ounce of forgiveness. And no, not a make-up night at the Four Seasons, not even a dedication of Maggie May on Magic 106.7. How about this…Rememba the time you took me up to Portland, Maine, and we had a grand time eating real, not fake Lender’s, bagels from Union Bagel? We shopped in local boutiques and ate fried fish on the authentic pier with real fishermen (not a perfect-corporate-designed replica of a “village”—no, the real deal). Rememba how you set me a short twelve feet away from your best homegrown musician ever, Ray Lamontagne, and within viewing distance of his glorious forearm tattoo? Rememba that great night, New England? We had the best time, outside, at one your many, many outdoor venues, venues that cannot be rivaled anywhere else anywhere in the world (except Italy, sorry, don’t be jealous). We were at Thompson’s Point, the one with the terrible pahkin lot, but excellent local foods concession stands. Let’s do that again. Except, get me closer, about one foot away from Ray, not twelve. Only that will make up for the mean commute in and out of Boston. But then again, maybe I do love you for the pain, because it certainly gives me something to write about.
And around, around we go.
No, I don’t know,
Shannon Kirk is the award-winning author of the debut psychological thriller, METHOD 15/33 (THE METHOD in UK, NZ, and OZ), which has garnered three starred reviews, won the National Indie Excellence Award for best suspense, was selected by the School Library Journal as one of the best 17 adult fiction books for teens, and was the Gold winner of the Benjamin Franklin IBPA award. METHOD 15/33 has been optioned for a major motion film and has sold into sixteen foreign territories. Ms. Kirk’s second novel (not a thriller), THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF VIVIENNE MARSHALL, was published in September 2016. Read more about Shannon Kirk, her books, and short stories at www.shannonkirkbooks.com andwww.thegoatmancometh.com.
To learn more about THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF VIVIENNE MARSHALL, click on the cover below: