As soon as the plane touched the ground at Logan, I felt different.
I'd been out of Boston for a few days, visiting friends-of-a-friend in Boulder, Colorado, and the first thing I noticed, after I managed to usher George off the plane without a whole lot of fuss, was that everything was quiet. Nobody talks to you in Boston -- in Boulder people were friendly, asked you where you were from, where you were going. It was unbearable.
One really strange thing has happened to me recently and I'm patently ignoring it. I realized a very long time ago that I was delusional, everybody else knows it too -- when this sort of thing happens, this sort of time-travel-bullshit thing, I just assume it has a deeper meaning and go with the flow. So here I am. Walking with George.
I get on the Blue Line and he briefly puts his head up to look at the names of subway stops. He runs his finger over "Revere Beach," over "Quincy Center." The train ushers us along and thirty minutes later we're home in Malden -- we stay only a moment, to pick up the car, then down Route Sixty to meet up with the turnpike.
He hasn't spoken since we got on the plane -- part of the agreement, which he Thank God kept to -- and has to clear his throat. "How can this place be so different from what I remember?"
"It's been two hundred years." Words are dry in my mouth. "We've built one hell of a city, even if it has some problems. You remember the hills and the forts, I remember the skyscrapers. There's a subway. There's a culture."
"True." He mulls over it. He takes off his hat, his wig -- the baldness and the liver spots that I wasn't prepared for. He doesn't ask me about the names on the sign and I don't tell him that he'll win the war. You can't get cocky. I have learned this. I have glorified my struggles as a member of the working class -- I've spent my whole life doing that and didn't know why -- and what I learned is that the moment you get comfortable, you'll slip. We are both struggling, and it is all a big secret. I want to explain everything, the history of every single town we pass by (I know them all) but I can't. It's not like I would have imagined it.
I moved to Boston and my whole life changed. It wasn't entirely into something surreal. It certainly wasn't into something bad. This is the place where things happen. Sometimes they don't make sense.
He doesn't look sick as we get on the freeway. In Worcester the scientists will help us. One of us can go home.