Marathon Monday

Alesha Alvis

Alesha Alvis

I missed the bus to take me to the Boston Marathon.  After waking up with a severe sinus headache that had followed about four hours of fitful sleep with the same pounding headache, I texted my friend Phani to tell him that I would not make it to the race, but there was a possible chance things could turn around later in the day after my meds kicked in. A few more hours of sleep, a couple Hulu shows watched, work done, and bills paid, I kept thinking to myself, “get your ass out of this apartment and to the race. Stop procrastinating. This is your first and last Boston Marathon.” I was excited to go and had been anticipating Marathon Monday for most of the winter and second semester at Emerson College. I had it highlighted in my planner and circled on my wall calendar in my bedroom. Everyone I know back in the Midwest, and in my small hometown of Woodbine, Iowa, knew I was planning to attend this event and how excited I was to see my first huge marathon in Downtown Boston.

I was eager to go, but it felt as if something was keeping me rooted to my spot in the center of my bed throughout most of the day.  Finally, I set my stuff to the side, got dressed, and made my way to the Inman Square bus stop. It was a beautiful day in Boston, and I mentally chastised myself for being a hobbit in my hobbit hole apartment on a lovely spring vacation day. But, I was ready to go and my excitement was present by the smile on my face as I walked the two blocks to the main square to catch the bus. I had my camera packed in my gold purse ready to catch the action and send lots of pictures to my boyfriend Mark and my family. I love taking sports photography and knew exactly where I would position myself at the race. I wanted to be at the main attraction, the finish line. This would be my first and last race, so I wanted to capture all of the spontaneous hugs, high fives, men and women kissing the street, and collapsing in mental and physical exhaustion. I wanted to see it all right at the finish line. I could not wait to see what pictures I would get.

Checking my phone application for the bus schedules, I realized I had just missed the #91 bus by one minute.  I was perturbed at my pokey and sometimes-lazy self. After checking the #83 bus schedule, I realized I had thirteen minutes to wait, so I decided to grab an Italian soda for the ride to the train station in Central Square.  The small, corner coffee shop was hot, crowded, and uncomfortable, so I took my strawberry soda and left. Before I could check the bus schedule again, my phone’s screen flashed to show that I had a missed call from my Mom. My first thought was, “this had better not be something that is going to irritate me about my move back to Iowa in May.”  I contemplated not listening to the message right away and waiting until after the race to find out what she needed. My focus was on getting to the race, but I decided not to act like a child and listen to her message.

Her voicemail message was brief, but I could tell she was trying not to sound panicked about something. I tapped the call back button and the call went nowhere. It stalled. I tried again. Nothing. So, I called my Dad. Twice. Nothing. I thought my phone must be malfunctioning, and I didn’t want to get to the race and not be able to use it to contact Phani. I powered it off and back on again. Twice. Nothing. My frustration started to bubble to the surface, and I no longer gently tapped the button but pounded on them angrily. My brilliant plan was to see if I could get better cell reception on our third floor balcony, so I walked the two blocks back to my apartment, annoyed with the Apple Corporation and Verizon. I heard the #83 bus drive through the square as I rounded the corner by the Cambridge Hospital walking back to my apartment on Line Street.  That was when they came. Calls, texts, Facebook posts, and Facebook private messages with frantic concern and worry found their way to me. I didn’t understand what had happened at first.  Confusion was my main emotion. I naively thought it was nothing and why was there so much panic happening all around me. Why all the fuss?

As I sat on the front steps, never making it to the third floor balcony, I could hear sirens in the distance and Facebook showed me exactly what I needed to worry about along with my family and friends who were 1500, or more, miles away. My own panic rose in my chest.  No longer confused, I became light-headed, so put my head between my knees and counted the sidewalk cracks to gain composure. I began the process of informing everyone I was in Somerville and okay. My messages were brief. It was all I could do. I was at a loss for words and filtering between feeling fine and feeling sick. I immediately wanted to be anywhere but Boston, Massachusetts.  Instantly, I needed to be with my parents and Mark, away from this destructive and frightening city.

The loneliness I’ve felt while living in Boston has been ever-present and suffocating since the bombs went off. So many people have a love for this city, and it is evident through notes, writings, and online posts. I don’t feel this way with them, and I hate that about myself. I’m scared by what happened, and I want to go home. This is not home. Boston will recover, but it will do so without me. The city will be whole again, and I’ll say I was there on April 15, 2013. I was in Somerville, Massachusetts preparing to attend my first and last Boston Marathon, but I never made it. Something kept me away from the horrific events that day.  I will tell my Marathon Monday story surrounded by the cornfields of Iowa. A place that is usually ignored.


Alesha Alvis is a graduate student working on her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree at Emerson College in Boston, MA. Her emphasis is Creative Nonfiction. She enjoys focusing her writing endeavors on memoir and travel narratives. Prior to working on her MFA degree, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English degree from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa and her Master of Arts in English degree from the University of Nebraska in Omaha, Nebraska. Along with obtaining her first Masters Degree, she also received a Certificate in Advanced Writing from the University of Nebraska. She’s been teaching at the college level for ten years and continues to do so while working on her final degree. In her spare time, she enjoys reading a good book and online shopping.

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