On Friday, the city was put on lockdown, and on Sunday I boarded a plane to fly across the country to a place I’d never been.
It was a trip I’d planned for a long time to a place – Portland, Oregon – that I’d long wanted to visit.
At the same time, as I finished up my packing and managed a last few errands, I found myself wishing that I wasn’t going anywhere at all.
What I wanted was normality – a return to the usual routines of writing, work, and friends.
It was then that I realized, with some surprise, that this place I’ve been living since September has come to feel like home.
For my friend Jan, the Boston/Cambridge area has felt, from the very beginning, like where she was meant to be.
“Cambridge is the first and only place I’ve felt like I belong and where I’m entirely comfortable in my own skin,” she wrote last week, in the dizzying days after law enforcement staked out the Cambridge residence of the alleged marathon bombers.
My own relationship with the area has been both slightly longer and far more fraught.
It began back in 1978, when I arrived on the Harvard campus at the age of 18, a serious, shy Midwesterner abruptly catapulted into a foreign land.
In the 20century intellectual history class I took freshman year, our professor lectured on the 1897 novel Les Déracinés, about seven young provincials who lose their way after arriving in Paris, the price of having been torn away from their native traditions. I certainly wasn’t living in France at the turn of the century.
Still, I knew what it felt like to be alone and unmoored. I went to a lot of parties, and I began a drinking career that would last through my mid-30s.
I recall a couple of half-hearted visits to Harvard University health services with no notable results.