Monday, December 5, 2011

Michalelangelo in East Cambridge

 If you take the T from the  Lechmere  stop into Boston,  you will pass, right after Science Park, a nicely manicured but clearly institutional apartment complex for the elderly.  It consists of about 40 individual apartments, each with its small porch facing the back, and thus the passing T.  In nice weather you might see one of the residents sitting on the porch and basking in the sun.  You never see more than one, and never frequently. 

Otherwise, the porches are mainly empty and lonely looking.  A few show signs of habitation: they become storage spaces for mops and brooms and old dishes.  In the months after 9/11, large flags hung from some of them.

One, however, was different.  Here a human-sized replica of Michaelangelo’s David lived, perpetually watching the train speed by. 

In those days, I took that train often, and in time I developed a sort of relationship with the statue.  Though—or perhaps because—no one ever came out to that porch, I formed a story in my mind about the apartment’s tenant.  He was, I decided, an elderly gay man who had lived there for many years and whose rooms were decorated with decades worth of fine antiques and good reproductions of  classical paintings.  He had moved there alone, after the death of his years-long partner, and the furnishings, including the David, had belonged to them both.

In the holiday season, when my train passed the home, I worried about  my imaginary friend.  He would be sad, surrounded by the ghosts of happy Christmases with his lover. But perhaps he had young relatives who spent the holidays with him and took the edge off his loneliness.

One day I was talking with my friend and then-neighbor Marcia about the T, and somehow the subject of the elders home came up. “Don’t you love the David on that one porch?,” I asked.

“Oh sure,” she grinned. “The one where the gay couple lives.”

This threw me.  Marcia knew the people there?  I was half excited that I would now learn about the statue’s owners, half deflated that the knowledge would destroy my pleasant little fantasy. “What gay couple?” I asked.

She looked a bit sheepish. “Well….the one I invented.”

I cracked up, of course. What a pair we were!  "You must be mistaken,'' I told her.   ''the one I invented lives alone.''

From then on, Marcia and I would  occasionally share fanciful gossip about our David friends.

Then one day, the statue wasn't there. Maybe it broke and it's out getting fixed, I thought. Marcia knew better. "It's gone," she said glumly. "They're gone."

After several weeks with no David, I had to concede.  Still, I refused to be depressed.  "He must have moved back to Paris with his young relatives.  They like living with him there.  He has so many stories about the old days, with Camus and Josephine Baker, and Noel Coward when he was on the Continent."

Marcia raised an eyebrow.  "No, they retired to the country.  They're still in Massachusetts-- in an old farmhouse near Provincetown."

I knew she was wrong and he was in Paris.  But I didn't argue.  Marcia, after all, has a right to her illusions.


Jim said...

Love it!

However, you're both wrong. The statue was always kept as a reminder of his youthful days in the sun-drenched Italian countryside. Through a stroke of luck that is where they are now, him sipping some robust local red wine in the statue's shadow while staring across the Tuscan valley from his villa's flagstone terrace. As he sits he reminisces about various faces he'd watch go by on the train outside the back of his apartment in Boston. He does not miss the winters.

karen lindsey said...

i will pass your theory onto marcia. still, i fear you too are mistaken. not that he hasn't spent time in rome, of course. he is a very well traveled and cultural man. still, he also loves paris and it is to there he has moved with his beloved neice and her husband. but you too are entitled to your opinion![g]

Ken Goldstein said...

She's in Vermont.

karen lindsey said...

ken, HE is not! and he hasn't had a sex change either! i refuse to let any of you take him away from me![g]

Marcia Deihl said...

Tee hee!