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Essays

Beyond the Twenty-First Mile

Their voices echo through our apartment: 

“GOOOOOOD MORNING BOSTON.” 

It’s six o’clock in the morning and “Levitating” by Dua Lipa blasts through the sides of the TV. The music invades my silent slumber as a welcomed intruder. My roommates pile up on my bed, rousing my sleeping body awake. 

Today is the 125th Boston Marathon, otherwise known as Marathon Monday among Boston College students. While runners from all over the country trek down Commonwealth Avenue, some at record speeds, the students assemble on one side of the MBTA subway tracks to compete in our own marathon of sorts, that is, screaming, dancing, and laughing with one another as we cheer on the runners.

I awake before the sun, the air buzzing with excitement and anticipation for what the day will hold. I am in my third year at Boston College and yet, this will be my first Marathon Monday. Traditionally held in the spring, the Boston Marathon was canceled the past two years due to the pandemic. Today holds its long-awaited comeback. The morning mist rises from the asphalt-turned-racecourse on a crisp Autumn day as my roommates and I begin to fuel our bodies for the events ahead. The muffled roar of our Keurig draws us all to the kitchen. We watch the machine work overtime to brew hot cups of caffeine. We clutch our mismatched mugs, sipping our morning elixir with the hopes of getting a pseudo-runners high induced by ground coffee beans and sweet swirls of creamer. 

A few clicks and now the stovetop hisses awake; blue and orange-tipped flames dance around the bottom of a frying pan. We’ve been living in Unit 32 for three months now and have yet to discover how to ignite the front burners, relying solely on back burners for meal prep. Monday is not the day for stovetop concerns, however. We have marathoners to cheer on.

Along our countertop, we form a breakfast assembly line. I have been assigned egg duty with a unanimous vote by the women of Unit 32. One of my roommates, Zoe, whips together a sriracha-mayo condiment while another roommate, Caroline, carves into our slightly stale bagels, giving each one a browned crispy toasting. My third roommate, Carson, is there for moral support, counting me down with a “1… 2… 3… flip,” and announcing each egg as my “best one yet.” Executing the perfect 180-degree flip while protecting the fragile golden yolk, I craft over-medium eggs blanketed with a thick layer of bubbling American cheese. We playfully debate the proper schmear for our breakfast bagel sandwiches, with cream cheese versus butter first on the agenda. I opt for a light buttery coating over my everything bagel polka-dotted with sesame seeds and a generous drizzling of the pink speckled sriracha mayo. 

Photo courtesy of Fork in the Kitchen

Together we gather on our living room couch, pop music mingling with the crunching of toasted bagels and the gentle sips of hot coffee. Bagel in hand, roommates beside me, I look out on Commonwealth Avenue. With the perspective of two years as a college student and the anticipation of two more years ahead, I recognize the privilege I have in slow moments like these: enjoying a simple breakfast in my tiny apartment, embraced by palpable energy only a celebration like today can provide. As the excitement flows from the streets and into Unit 32, I  take this moment to slow down and share in a communion of bagel sandwich goodness before the runners rush by and the world watches on. In my moment of reflection, I am reminded of the power of Boston.

It has been eight years since the Boston Marathon bombing, and as we prepare to celebrate just how #BostonStrong we’ve remained, I reflect on the lives lost and terror experienced. But, gathered with friends who have bellies full of food and spirits to stretch 26.2 miles, I am reminded that through the strength of community, the city has regained its pace. It reminds me that we have a responsibility to bear this tradition proudly, that while we cheer on the marathoners at mile twenty-one, our energy carries them to the finish line. It reminds me of the outpouring of love and support that human beings share with one another. It reminds me that the human body accomplishes incredible feats and that the human spirit does too. 

It reminds me that Boston is back. It’s been 910 days, but Boston is back. 

Cover image courtesy of Fork in the Kitchen

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