Yesterday, I was intermittently checking the news as all Boston shut down and the second marathon bombing suspect was tracked to some dude’s boat. I was waiting for a sense of relief, maybe jubilation like everyone on Facebook and twitter seemed to feel. It just never came. I had faith that it was only a matter of time before he was caught (a bleeding, desperate 19 year old versus, effectively, an army) and though I felt the tension and the concern for the many friends I have in greater Boston, some of whom are cops, I didn’t feel much better once he was carted off to the hospital.
There have been other things I didn’t feel. The foremost of these is anger. I know it could still come. There’s still plenty of things I may yet feel. But I check myself for anger over and over, whenever I read the rage all over Facebook, and it isn’t there. If I play psychologist, I might say that to feel angry requires that a person feel victimized, to have lost something. And though I feel anguish for a family in Medford, and one in Dorchester, and one in China, and for all the people keeping watch at countless bedsides in Boston hospitals, I didn’t lose anything on Monday. My five year old is having nightmares. My three year old asks about when “Daddy was lost and he was by a bomb,” but could I bring a claim for lost innocence? I just can’t. There are terrible things in the world, and we don’t get a pass.
I’m not going to speak for everyone who was there on Monday, not by any stretch, but I believe being there has made all the difference to me. I have watched the marathon on tv since I was a kid and I’ve always loved it, but I had never been in to watch one in person. If you never have, you should. It was the most soaring spectacle of human achievement and spirit and drunken, affectionate college students, and cramped up, agonized runners reduced to a limp but still moving that is possible on this earth. I was moved nearly to tears by almost everything. The roar of the crowd audible from half a mile away and within the green line trolley, an old guy with “Go Old Fella” scrawled on his shirt gingerly trotting over the crest of the hill, a woman kissing her fingers and raising them to a Canadian flag held by a stranger in the crowd.
After the bombs, it felt indecent to care about how my husband’s race had gone (not well: leg cramps), or to be disappointed that he couldn’t finish. He was alive and unharmed; shouldn’t that be enough? Slowly, over days, the thought came to me, as I heard people saying, “How dare they take this from us? How dare they ruin this beautiful thing?” that it’s not a choice I have to make. I saw something awesome. And not in the watered down, colloquial sense. I saw something that left me in awe. That swelled me with so much pride for people I didn’t even know that I thought I would swoon. And then something else happened that was terrible. But it could not displace the wonder, or the euphoria. It’s not that a bombing ruined a marathon. There was a marathon, and there was a bomb. Then another. And I have room in my heart for both the stunning happiness and the stunning sadness. Though I might sometimes wish it were otherwise, we have limitless capacity to feel. And while the sadness keeps coming, so does the happiness.