The Knight and The Lady
She had never walked so much in her whole life or had as many places to see. Marci escorted her all over Boston, showing her the high and low points. They went to the Museum of Fine Arts, peeked in a Symphony Hall, wandered through the Granary Burial Grounds, Trinity Church, the posh decor of Boylston Street and the Back Bay. They ate cannoli in the north End, fruit at Haymarket, pretzels on the Commons, pastry on Charles Street. By mid-afternoon they both slumped on a bench in the Gardens watching the swan boats curl lazily through the sluggish water, their stomachs and their eyes full and rested.
Old people sat on the benches around them and on the bridge that arched over the pond a young couple stood holding hands. Commonwealth Avenue buzzed with traffic and the flowers in the Gardens shook color into the air. JC was wilting into the warm bench when she felt Marci stiffen beside her. She opened her eyes and following Marci's gaze saw a group of ten or twelve youths, black and white, stride along the flowerbeds, hands notched in their pockets, shoulders slung back. They trampled the flowers, grinding them under their heels. None of them smiled, though one or two flicked a sneer quickly, and then it was gone.
"Who are they?"
"I don't know but they look like trouble." Some of the older people seemed to shrink in their seats. "C'mon, let's get out of here." JC just sat there. Marci tugged on her shoulder roughly, speaking to her while she watched the approaching gang. "They ain't got nothin' to lose. We do. C'mon." Still JC didn't move. Marci, seeing it was no use but not wanting to leave JC there, sat back down with an angry sigh.
They walked right in front of them, wearing jeans, tee-shirts, sweatshirts, shirts unbuttoned, long hair and short, some frizzed or spiked. They passed what looked like a cigarette back and forth and some of them held brown bags with bottles in them. They smelled of dust and sweat and something JC couldn't identify -- like the smell in certain homes her mother took her to when she did her volunteer work, where the sofas had holes in them and the front porches sagged. Her eyes followed the gang until they were a small grey clot on the corner and then they melted into the traffic.
Marci sat stiffly, her arms folded in front of her, eyes straight ahead. "You're stupid, you know. Really dumb. Those peckers don't care about anything." She jabbed her finger at the foot-scarred flowerbeds.
JC shook her head slowly. "I didn't like them. They...well, we don't have anything like them where I live." She paused. "I was scared, you know, but..." She shrugged her shoulders, no words to offer.
Marci hissed "Jesus" through her teeth, got up. "You comin'? Or are you gonna stay for the second act?" When they reached Park Street subway and shared a pretzel with mustard, Marci had more or less forgive JC's stupidity.
"Well, we could go to the Aquarium. Or out to the airport, watch planes." She paused. "Or we could go to Cambridge, knock around there. Yeah, let's do that." So they plunged into the station, slid their tokens into the turnstile, and hustled onto a Red Line train before the doors hissed shut. The train, a newer one, had sleek steel sides and seats that whooshed when they sat down.
When the train rushed out of the tunnel to the Charles Street station, JC was fascinated by the bay, here and there dotted with sailboats. The water glistened with sun and down the river she could see the gentle arch of bridges, and suddenly she seemed to weigh nothing, out there untied and free floating in a sail or arching over a river of light. She peered at the scene until the train crashed into the darkness of the tunnel.
When a nasal voice cracked out of the loudspeaker "Harvard", Marci piled out and run up the stairs, two at a time, and burst into the Square. Across the street was the Harvard Coop and behind them was Harvard Yard. "C'mon," Marci said, and they scuttled across the street and through the iron gates into the Yard.
Here was strange peace. People quietly sauntered through the shadow-cut walks in singles or pairs or groups, some chatting, others lost in thought. On the grass a dog chased a frisbee as it sailed silver in the sun, and sprawled bodies punctuated the green, sun-soaking, idea-catching, nap-snatching. JC liked the warm dark brown of the brick buildings and the contrast of shadow and sunlight, quiet breeze and muzzled traffic outside, action and thought. All this fell on her like a cool cloth on a fever and for the time since she'd left home three long and short days ago she was calm inside without worry. She was part of the grass, sky, shadow, wind, and when the dog leapt for the spot of turning silver something inside her rose with him.
Marci shuffled alongside JC. "I have a favorite spot here." JC only half-heard, the sun loud in her ears. "I don't know why I go there..." JC noticed the uncharacteristic hesitation and suddenly realized Marci was talking about herself. When after a silent moment Marci still hadn't spoken but seemed to be struggling, JC said quietly, "Let's go see it." Marci turned quickly and stared at JC full-face and for a second something engaged between them that neither of them had words for. "Okay."
They crossed from the old part of the Yard into the newer part and headed toward Memorial Church. The doors swung silently open and JC immediately noticed the same quiet separation from the Yard that the Yard provided from the street. The whole interior, except for the deep brown woodwork, was white. Huge wooden columns shot upward to the delicately carved ceiling. One wall was littered with the names of Harvard students who had died in the war. Off to the right were two tall swinging doors. With some hesitation, Marci, eyes to the floor, pointed to the doors. "It's in there."
The room's walls were also covered with names, some with gilt paint, and JC wasn't sure what she was supposed to see. Then she saw. To the left of the doors was a statue. Actually, it was two statues, of a man and a woman. The man was a knight in armor. He was lying on his back, his hands neatly placed on his chest, and his head was in the woman's lap. The woman, draped in a long veil that covered her hair, was kneeling and the man's head was resting on her knees and thighs. JC approached the statue, cautiously, as if afraid it were going to speak or be real. She ran her fingers over the woman's face, down the long fall of the curved cloth to the man's face, then along the intricate chain mail. Her hand rested on the man's hands and her mind began to fill in details of his history, of how he was killed, how his lady, full of sadness and love, knelt beside him, how time had stopped for both of them, each differently, each the same, and how pain took all of her except just enough life to recognize and live for his loss. JC began to drift into their world, began to smell the green hills and smell the blood on the lady's shadow, and she wrenched herself, breathless, back tot he grey stone and cold touch of the statues.
Marci stood just inside the doors, her hands jammed into her pockets, looking intently at JC. JC pushed herself away from the statue but not quickly, not as if away from a coffin but away from the edge of canyon that made her feel scared and excited at the same time. JC swung to see Marci and Marci glared right back into her. Both of them had no words to say, couldn't say them if they had, didn't want to break the silence, and for a moment that seemed stretched out impossibly thin, JC felt closer to Marci than she'd ever felt to any human being. Then it snapped. Marci muttered something about going and they both walked out of the church into the blinding sunlight.