There were moments in what Garin called his American life when he felt the urge to stop himself, while walking down some familiar street, caught in the midst of a moving crowd, staring at faces, places, as if he were lost, or otherwise found. Then, with both hands tucked in his pockets, he took a deep breath and exhaled quietly the seconds brewing within him, racing—always racing—against the rapid surge of a city, a whole nation, until it became unrecognizable, and he found himself yearning to be home.
Home, he recited the word in his head: this morning, when he tossed a box of fruit loops into a ceramic bowl he purchased not a month ago at Crate & Barrel; when he stood on a platform waiting for the train at Kenmore Square; or when he sat in the subway car, going north toward Gov’t Center, next to a woman who smelled of corn oil, who was eating fried rice out of a plastic container; and again, when he switched lines at Park Street.
Not too long ago, a call came through marked as a private number, and as usual Garin let his voicemail pick it up.
The message, when Garin got around to checking his voice mailbox, was from an old friend, Amulet. She was going to be in town this coming weekend for a quick visit. She had news to tell him. That, and The Nutcracker was going to be playing at the Boston Opera House. It would be nice, she said in a hyperactive voice—as if she was in a hurry toward some place exciting—if they could grab a drink together. Just the two of them, after the show.
It was a week before Christmas, Garin had been waiting for snowflakes to sprinkle down from the sky. Back when he still lived in a tropical country, he had thought every Christmas in America was a white Christmas. He had been wrong: some Christmases are dull and gray with a gloomy air wrapped around them, though some others are postcard-perfect.
Garin had seen the Nutcracker before, in his first year away from home, on television, aired live from the Kennedy Center, Mikhail Baryshnikov taking center stage. It was impressive, but Garin didn’t understand ballet. And he’d never made the effort to understand it. Not really.