After the Gentleman in Black: A Story of Boston, Family, and Isabella Stewart Gardener

It’s not like I expected anything good to come from a real newspaper–it’s 2016, for chrissake. I’m pretty sure the last person I saw actually reading a newspaper and not just skimming for the funnies while checking the news online was the engineer on the first floor who dresses like Charlie Chaplin. No reason to emulate that. The thing was just on the kitchen table, and my parents weren’t home, and they hadn’t bought one in years–come to think of it, they were always devoted to TV and email updates, even before techno-news was the norm. Modern family, I guess. But no matter where that urge to read came from, I know I certainly didn’t expect this.

It was actually kinda fun, for a couple minutes. I read about the Best Burgers in Boston and Letters to the Editor and drank my coffee, slowly, (first time for everything) and didn’t think about how badly I needed to re-dye my hair or the amount of homework I had to do. Life had been crazy, with school and work and my parents basically losing it more times a day than usual, and I wanted a moment. Unfortunately, now I wish I’d sucked it up and kept going. Self-care can be really friggin’ dangerous sometimes. Anyway, yeah, there were at least three sections before I found the thing. It’s sort of ironic; I cried during T-Ball and my life still changed right after “Sports.”

And, yes, I didn’t know the museum existed. Yes, I know I’m the last person alive to say that. And yeah, that certainly isn’t a coincidence. Even now, the fact that they did what they did confuses me. I suppose it’s a blessing I found it on my own. Would’ve been even more confusing otherwise. That’s a talk no kid wants to have with their parents. Sometimes, though, the way I discovered the whole thing pisses me off more than the thing. Like, how dare they? You know? According to multiple news outlets and twitter accounts, that makes me whiny, but I’d like to see them figure out in five seconds that those weird paintings in their attic were actually worth $13 million. I wonder how they’d take it.

The first couple weeks I felt like I was dreaming. Not a good dream, not a bad dream. Just kinda…not real. Especially since I wasn’t telling anybody, because how does one start that conversation, like “hey, can we stop by the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum? I got something I need to give them. Do you think they’ll be any kind of fine after 25 years?” Christ. It’s embarrassing, to say the least, but I’m just glad the whole situation’s done and over with, ‘cause there’s nothing I or anybody else can do. The background exists, the story exists, and the choices–they exist. God, they exist.

Chapter 2: After the Gentleman in Black: A Story of Boston, Family, and Isabella Stewart Gardener

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I can’t remember the last time my stomach felt like this. That is, the last time it wasn’t because I didn’t have my smoothie. But, hey, I’ll be damned if I don’t have a good reason. Day 1 of knowing my parents, Jonathan and Delilah Drey, who brought me to playgrounds and packed my backpack and stuff–hell, they introduced me to smoothies–are actually thieves of, goddammit, $13 million worth of paintings. It’s funny in a pathetic way, how they were able to keep me so oblivious for so many years. I trusted them so much. Trust them so much. Not ready for past-tense yet.

I should stop thinking about this stuff while walking down sidewalks in Boston. I just almost ran into two dogs at the same ti–”Hey, wait! Chuck! Charlotte! Hey!

Now, I believe everyone needs a friend with too much energy and not enough sense. Evelyn is mine. However, it is worth noting that I also believe everyone doesn’t always want the one they have. I sigh, and turn to her, coughing because I just inhaled too quick and too hard. Sort of how she’s running down the street right now. You remember that kid in third grade whose actual personality felt like running into a playground fence? She never really grew out of it, just tacked on an insane sense of wit and a love for big hair. Without her, I wouldn’t understand sarcasm or combatting frizz. That’s the kinda girl she is.

Unfortunately, I am not in the mood to deal with that kinda girl right now. As she skids to a stop, cheeks ruddy and curls flying, I hear my name like it’s coming from fifty feet away. “Chuck…Chuck…you okay?” Instantly, I snap back into it, snap back into the nickname I’ve had since years before yesterday, years before my life changed–life change, life changing, life changed– and I try to look at her like I’m not having a nervous breakdown.

“Yeah, sorry, just a little tired,” I lie, rubbing my eyes, only partially to dramatize. Evelyn pushes back her hair and sighs, tugging me away from the thick flow of the Boston street and licking her arm through mine. We begin to walk in Boston Latin School’s direction, and Evelyn rattles on about some group project she’s doing all the work for, and how this is the third time this month. The air feels crisp and sharp and smells like street and perfume, alternating in intensity as our classmates drift by, offering hellos or waves, and I am panicking.

It’s silly, really, the panic. Nobody knows. Nobody needs to know. Nobody is going to need to know. But, Christ, it’s enough to make me want to tell someone just so they can be like “ Holy Crap,” and I can say “I know, right?” I’ve always had that before–with Evelyn, or with someone else. This is the first time that I know it’s impossible. I guess I’m looking too lost in my own head, all eyes-glassed over and expressionless and shuffling, because Evelyn tightens her grip on my arm suddenly and stops us on the street, looking equal parts exasperated and exhilarated. “Chuck, you okay? You seem out of it.” I nod, shove my hands into my jacket pockets, and tell her that I’m just real tired, and she nods, and we keep walking.  A little slower, now.

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