Faces of Pain

Like a signpost, this sculpture stands at the intersection of several streets. This is one of the only times I can recall seeing it in the daytime. It came to me in a dream, where I keep searching but never find. Down dark streets, criss-crossing paths, and winding circles, I’ve been here before.

The faces lead me onward, steering my course and whispering the way. Are they warning or welcoming?

I am not there yet, but I am close. The surrounding buildings rise higher, making it difficult to discern location and direction. I find my way to the park where I once sat reading ‘The House of Mirth’ by Edith Wharton, waiting for him to finish work at the hotel across the street. It is the Langham Hotel now, and the Café Fleuri, where he waited tables, is still there. I have never set foot in this hotel. Even back then, I only ever waited outside, watching from afar.

He is not what I am seeking. He is, as far as I know, not in Boston anymore. I don’t know where he is, and I stopped looking for him years ago. My search is for something else.

I step into the lobby from the side entrance. No one is around. I sit down on a velvet couch and examine the room. Elegantly appointed, it is draped with sumptuous curtains lined with thick fringe. Behind me an escalator and a staircase rise to the Café Fleuri, already closed for the afternoon. The escalator is still, and a velvet rope cordons off access.

I sit there for a moment, trying to recall what was going through my mind in 1994, back when he was the first man I fell for. This is where he worked. This is the place from which he once called me on a late summer afternoon. I still remember the dying orange light of a sunset creeping along the cement walls of my castle room at Brandeis as we spoke. We seemed so far apart – Boston was but a miniature capsule in the distance from the vantage point of Waltham – and yet so close.

Somehow he is not the reason I am here today. Inadvertently, perhaps, and technically, maybe, but there is something greater at work, something about that whole time period that has drawn me back to this location. Walking through the lobby, I take a turn into a side hallway that leads to an open door and a grand flight of stairs. It is dim here, but above the stairs I can just make out the top of a bar, and a couple of chandeliers suspended grandly. It is a great room, with a ceiling that disappears skyward. I am overcome with the sense that I have found it – the place where all will be revealed.

The hostess returns and welcomes me to Bond. I ask if there is a dress code later tonight. In my shorts, half-buttoned shirt, and flip-flops I am nowhere near ready to step into the room. She says only after nine o’clock is it enforced. I thank her and say I’ll be back for an early cocktail.

Back outside, in the afternoon sunlight, I am relieved. This is where I will find it, whatever it is. I couldn’t even tell you why, but I just have this feeling that Bond is the place to be tonight. There’s something in that space that might unlock secrets that go all the way back to 1994. I’m strangely certain about this…

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