“It’s 8:30 am and I’m a kind of drunk and I want you!” were the words sung to me at Central Square, Cambridge. The truth is – It was 7:30, he was drunk, and he didn’t want me! But it brought laughter to my heart and I realize how much I love my colorful neighborhood.
While Harvard Square is full of intellectuals of all ages, brain cells abounding with funky stores,coffee shops, and Out of Town News – Central Square is hardcore life. It is dirtier and grittier with a cross-section of people that defies any stereotype. Recent and older immigrants speaking everything from Amharic and Arabic to Portuguese and Punjabi; every age from infants in strollers to the elderly heading to a community center or the library around the corner; and the sassiest and saltiest homeless people you will ever meet, all converge in Central Square.
If you don’t give money, the homeless population have no problem escorting you to the nearest ATM or looking you up and down with derision and the comment “That’s ok! What goes around comes around!” and you are left feeling cursed.
Maybe the reason I feel so at home in this neighborhood as opposed to Harvard Square with its sophisticated milieu and Kendall Square filled with Geeky MIT students and biotech engineers is that I feel like I am a cross-section of worlds and people. The suburbs stifled me as I felt the need to fit in with beautiful homes and more beautiful people, never quite measuring up to what I perceived as the unspoken expectation. My past of both Pakistan and Egypt didn’t seem important in the suburbs, but in Central Square it feels like my background belongs. Central Square welcomes me with its imperfection and honesty. There is the ability to feel fully alive and authentic, even as I am serenaded by intoxication at 7:30 am.
With burnt orange, brick-red, electric lime, and hot magenta all mixed together in one place, Central square is like a box of crayons that are primary colors – no pastel pinks, light blues, or pale yellows in sight.