A Train to Wonderland is the story of my search for some excitement in the white, clean, small, puritan city of Boston. I am a 40-year-old MIT research fellow from Tel-Aviv. In this story – doubtfully true; doubtfully fiction – I chronicle a magical place that I found out about on a gay dating site. Find the first chapter of my story below.
A scene on the way to Wonderland.
It’s Saturday. 10:07 p.m. There’s nothing exciting to do on either side of the Charles.
Newbury Street is silent. The mannequins in Ted Baker’s exhibition windows stare at me and advise me on what to wear. From Niketown, on the other side of the street, I am encouraged to be healthy and strong.
I can only see pairs of people on the street. An old married couple returning home from a dinner; a well-dressed couple on the way to a
pub; and a couple of friends, perhaps on their way to a party. Even the rats on the public alley between Newbury and Boylston are dancing in pairs. Only Justin, a 20 year-old homeless man, is lying alone on a stone bench abutting Boston Public Library. He asks, “Why are Boston’s people so violent?”
I take the Green Line, inbound, at Copley Square. Four sorority girls with fancy dresses are standing next to the doors. One is too big for her dress; the second wears too much make-up; the dress of the third is caught in her underwear; and the fourth looks like an angel. At Arlington, a miserable guy is supporting his unbalanced, drunk, blonde girlfriend who wears pink All-Stars. She is competing with two Red Sox fans – could they be more annoying and noisy than she? Between the two couples, an old Chinese lady holds Hyacinth flowers, past their prime, that are wrapped in an old newspaper. She is staring at an unknown spot and smiling to herself.
At Government Center I follow a sea of gray, blue, and black sweatshirts to the lower level. We all stand around a woman who is wearing a purple dress with golden ornaments. She is sitting next to an old cloth covered in colorful plastic jewelry and Bob Marley bracelets. No one is buying.
A blonde rat with big eyes is crossing the rails very close to me, and the speaker announces: “Attention passengers, the next Blue Line train to Wonderland is now approaching.”
In the next five chapters, I meet people and places. Through each one of them, I learn more about Boston’s story, and even more I learn about myself. A train to Wonderland tells the story of being who you are in a place that advises you, gently but determinedly, who you should be.
Story and image by Ofer Lerner.
• Wonderland is one of six buildings buildings profiled by students in the fall 2013 MIT course, “In This Building.” See what it’s like to be at the other five buildings.