Sometimes it was Charles St, sometimes it was Park St. It depended on what walk I felt like. It depended on whether I'd lost my 'T' pass yet. It usually took a week to lose the pass. Taxpayers' money to waste. The guy at Charles St knew me. He kindly let me through, knowing I wasn't selling my pass on the black market for drug money or tricks. We got them for each month. Multi-coloured plastic, kind of like a credit card, the month in bold Helvetica, or some sans serif clone thereof, and the 'T' symbol in the top-left corner. Some people put a hole punch in it and slid it on to their keychain. I think I tried that a couple of times. I still lost it. I'm not entirely sure how I made it to thirteen with all my limbs to be honest.
I liked Park St best. I had to walk through the Common to get there, and that took me close to the little league fields. It would be fitting and nostalgic to recall taking a minute to wander over to the diamonds and think of Spring, but I never did. And as much as I liked the walk, I liked Dunkin' Donuts better (back when coffee was only an afterthought - an accompaniment to their doughnuts). With whatever quarters I had, plus the odd dollar, I'd buy a honey -glazed, a copy of The Globe and a copy of The Herald.
The Green Line's a tram, really, not a train. I trudged up the steps and found a seat and read the funnies. That's why I bought the papers. If there were no seats, I'd stuff them in my backpack and wait until a quiet moment at school. Garfield had moved to The Herald. It was huge news at the time. That's why I bought The Herald. My parents bought The Times. And for some reason I didn't want them to know I bought newspapers. My secrecy made sense at the time. I was just that age. Pretty dorky form of rebellion, really.
As an aside, that was also the age where I realised Garfield wasn't really funny and Calvin and Hobbes was. And is. And probably always will be. Maybe that's why I still love that memory so much. Because it's fairly Calvin-like.
Aside aside, as it were, I wound up reading the papers. It's a lot of newsprint to carry around, just to read the funnies. So I read some of the rest.
I only remember one story from that year. It ran through the week, whatever the week that was. It was about Carl Yastrzemski, or Yaz, and his road to Cooperstown, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I read it meticulously, though I don't remember who wrote it. I remember reading it and wondering whether someday Wade Boggs would make the same trip. I remember reading it and looking forward to going to school the next morning just to pick up the next part of the story.
I never looked foward to going to school. Not that year. It was the wrong school, I was the wrong student. But I liked the commute. At the age of 12, I liked the commute. I liked the honey-glazed doughnut and losing myself in the papers.
I remember one of my teachers commenting on them. As bitter and cynical as could be, there was no joy but the smart arse comment, the bitterness itself, his delight in the sarcasm with which he rejected every excuse. His name was Mr Donovan. White hair with a bald patch, short cut, not too tall and an almost perpetual sneer. No one misbehaved. Well, they did, and he enjoyed it. He smiled at misfortune and punishment. He laughed at the troublemakers. He mocked my newspapers.
'The school doesn't want you to have those.'
'Scared you'll read what the press writes about them.'
He never confiscated them though. A snort of derision, a shake of the head and a mutter under the breath, but never a confiscation.
I didn't misbehave at that school. Well, twice. Once smart arse and once stupid, but never the siren-wailing lunacy of the years before. I fought in the school yard, during gym, but teachers didn't get involved in things like that. But I had to see the vice-principal every day. Every day she checked my bag, checked my homework. There were 1200 kids in 7th grade that year, and every day she checked to see if I'd done my work. She worried about me, encouraged me, helped me. I wasn't going to be there the next year. I was moving to London and she wrote exceptional recommendations to schools throughout Britain, overwhelming the blight that was my transcript.
I hadn't done my work. She would shout and swear at me, send me class, telling me to come back the next day, same time, with my homework finished.
I was getting D's and F's. I was at constant war with my parents. I had three friends, only one whose name I still remember.
I remember one day at home, during a quiet time, my mother asking me when I started reading the papers. My dad was in the room. I said I didn't know. I just started reading them for the funnies. She told me Mrs. Edwards noticed. Noticed that I read The Herald and The Globe. She noticed and it gave her some sort of hope. Ever-combative, I muttered again that I bought them just for the funnies, refusing to admit that I read anything else. I went to my room. The one with the red curtains.
Mr Donovan sneered at my papers and I shrugged. He supervised, and never taught. A prison warden.
I remember going home on the Green Line. A thousand school kids, fighting for standing room, the gossip and excited chat at the end of the day, filling in slam books, eyeing each other with curiosity and confusion. I took the papers out again until I got to Park St. Sometimes I'd walk home, sometimes I'd switch to the Red Line and head to Charles St. Sometimes I'd grab a doughnut. I never understood why the trip home was so much more crowded.
There's a lot there. But as a reflex, all I remember is the morning papers on the morning train. Commuting to school, reading about the baseball and eating a doughnut.