Allston Break-Up Letter: It’s Not You, It’s Me. (Also Kind of You)

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Allston, with its bad boy streak and glittering sidewalks, lures in a girl. At first, she sees only the good. But nothing lasts forever.
Allston, with its bad boy streak and glittering sidewalks, lures in a girl. At first, she sees only the good. But nothing lasts forever. Mark Wilson/Boston Globe

Dear Allston,

I remember when we first met. It was four years ago. I was just a hapless freshman wandering your labyrinth of filthy streets, in search of my first college party.

When some stranger took pity on me and my dozen closest friends and gave us a beer pulled from his backpack so we all could take a swig in the middle of the street, I knew you were special. A sip of beer wasn’t enough to get me buzzed, but that didn’t matter. I was interested in you. I wanted to get to know you better.

Over the next two years, we got closer. I’d visit you late at night on weekends, never staying long enough for us to catch the sunrise together. Sometimes, my friends and I would sneak past Packard’s Corner, winding up Brighton Avenue to feast on fro-yo, as twenty-somethings are wont to do. By the end of the summer, my passion for you burned like those dozen-ish cars incinerated by the so-called ‘Allston Flamer’.

Then the lease on my Brookline apartment was up, and I found myself at a crossroads.

It was time to decide whether to make things official with you. Your cheap rents and close proximity to the Green Line made the decision easy. You were irresistible. How could I say no? I found a cute apartment. I took the plunge.

Together at last.

My U-Haul almost getting towed on my first ‘Allston Christmas’ should have been a sign. Things with you weren’t going to be as rosy as I imagined. But I ignored the warning signs and fell head over heels. I was enamored.

You were everything I needed: ample restaurants and cafes, fun places to go dancing at night, and accessible by bus and train. Your rat-filled streets and shady characters kept me on my toes. You had just enough of a ‘bad boy’ streak for me to be hooked.

I could find no fault. The sidewalks glittered with possibility.

You taught me a lot. Like, what to do if a giant rat gets trapped in your friend’s bathroom. (You find a shirtless neighbor willing to bludgeon the rodent with a chair leg.) And how to avoid the intersection at Harvard and Commonwealth Ave by the McDonald’s, where methadone clinic patients hang out during the day. (There are longer routes, but totally worth it.) And how to quickly identify and sidestep vomit on the street on any given Wednesday or Saturday morning. (Alternate watching for cars that will run you over and looking down for the results of binge-drinking.)

You were so many firsts for me. The first time I saw a rat. The first time my car got towed. The first time I learned just how commonplace car arsons can be.

But what seems perfect at first glance never is. And over time, the rose-colored glasses were clouded by the smoke from car arson, and I began to see you differently.

Those sidewalks glittering with possibilities? Turns out it was just broken glass. The Green Line, which at first seemed so conveniently located, soon became the stuff of nightmares. Maybe it was the infrequent train arrivals, or the trolleys’ hellish scream as metal grinded with metal along the bend in the tracks at Packard’s Corner, or the indescribable suffering that is any outbound train at 10:30 on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night during the school year.

Nothing lasts forever. My lease is up, and I’m moving to Dorchester. It’s time to end this.

I know you well enough to know you’re not going to make leaving easy. And not just because the streets will be clogged with moving trucks and roving bands of college kids trying to snatch ‘treasures’ from the curb.

Because while I know this relationship isn’t meant to be forever, I still think you’re pretty great.

You’re grimy, sure. But you’re also a stone’s throw from some of Boston’s coolest bars and restaurants (lookin’ at you, Deep Ellum, Yummy Sushi, Refuge Cafe, and my favorite dive bar of all time, The Silhouette Lounge.)

In a city with sky-high rents, you’ve managed to still offer reasonably priced apartments, even if they’re dilapidated, overcrowded, and bedbug-infested.

You’re a hop, skip and a jump from Cambridge and downtown Boston.

So, Allston, you’re still pretty great.

And someday soon, I’ll return to you, and we can sit on the curb, rats dancing before us in the moonlight. And we’ll talk about how I’ll never have another love quite like you.

And then the 57 bus will drive by, blowing trash into my face. And I’ll stand up, wipe the vomit from my shoes, and go.

I’ll never forget you,


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