There’s always this one day in the year when it shifts, the day when all of a sudden, the subway station is warmer than the outdoors again. That’s when you know.
This is the fifth month of winter. There’s not enough sun for all the sad people here anymore.
We try to stay close to keep each other warm. The wind is too harsh and we keep drifting apart, except for the times when the storm hits harder than usual and the rain is so strong that we have to stand closely under the supermarket roof, looking out to water smashing down from the sky, feeling each other’s elbows in our sides and smelling each other’s scents, waiting for the rain to stop, while the slushy machine that’s on all year keeps slushing ice to the sound of Radical Face: Welcome Home.
Oh, the rain. It’s always the rain. It makes the bushes in the back yard below my apartment look like palm trees, it makes my hands cold and my body shiver and the water run through my hair and drip onto my face and first it wets my glasses, then it makes them foggy every time I enter a warmer place. Clear vision is a rarity these days. I have to remind myself to blink from time to time, as a means to make sense of the world right now. As a means to remember the world as it is right now. Because what the world is, is something that makes me want to run, and not run in the good ways like I did in early autumn, when I’d sprint to catch the traffic lights and go for park runs and play catch with the tiniest dog in the world. This is a time when I want to run and hide, or, better, sit on a train and ride it until Endstation, last stop, and stay there forever.
Recently, I read a story of a microwave and two people who are forever stuck in almost kissing, and it reminds me of you. I walk around the corners, blocks, I leave my thoughts in the streets. I spend an entire walk thinking about the cultural implications of house shoes. Little children mostly treat me as a roadblock, and I appreciate the grand gesture in their pure avoidance. I’m counting my steps. I like counting things: steps, stairs, doors, corners, windows, holes in ceilings, books in shelves, pictures on walls, tiles in bathrooms. Most of the time, I’ll only notice that I’m counting again when my head is already beyond ten. A bunch of dried flowers lie on the step in front of the antique book shop. And as, for once, the sun comes out, the day goes by and it’s about to set again, I just stop and stare, stare at the sunset as if it was holding any answers. Outside of a shop, big wreaths are standing outside, and flower arrangements of red roses, the kinds that come with their own stands and backdrops of evergreen and bows to hold them together. CONGRATULATIONS, one says. A big sign above the door reads NOW OPEN. A man walks out of the shop, he has a beard and a melancholic look on his face and as I look at it all, I want to cry over the beauty of life.
I stand on a platform, waiting for a train to the airport, and someone is wearing your perfume (I can smell it over the crowd). As I get on the packed train, I sit across from someone, and without any conversation, we arrange for each other to have as much room as we possibly can, to ensure we’re both comfortable in between it all. After the arrangements are done, for the first time, we briefly look each other in the eyes and nod in respectful acknowledgement, and for the fraction of a second, I feel genuine human connection.
The train stops, I see a woman on the opposite platform. She’s wearing a green coat and bites into a peach, leaning forward. The peach juice drops on the ground. A plane from Munich arrives and nobody is waiting for anyone on it. At a different gate, a woman is waiting. She’s tall, with curly brown hair, and bursting with joy. In one hand, she’s holding a long red rose wrapped in foil; in the other, she has a huge white poster, WELCOME HOME written on it with permanent marker, in giant letters full of impatience and anticipation. She has the excitement of the world written onto her face, and as I look at her, my heart feels like it will just burst with love. The plane I’m on is packed, and the person next to me has broad shoulders. I spend the flight thinking about the radiation of the warmth of the almost-touch of another person.
Sometimes I look at fellow passengers on the subway and imagine what their lives will look like in fifty years. On a Friday morning and another train, I look down on my phone to adjust the music, as I hear someone say my name, question mark. I look up and it’s G., we haven’t met in years, again, and how come it never feels like years, but always is years, and how come that G. is one of these people with whom you just know, know that together, you could’ve been something, but you never were and never will be, and there’s the biggest sadness and sweetness in it. It’s the brutal beauty of subjunctive.
It’s a Sunday morning, and as I walk home at 5am, the snow is falling on my face and rests on my hair. The night is sweet and fading away like the taste of vanilla ice cream and I stay in the street, watching the snow flakes hit the ground and slowly melt away.
Hold on, love. It’s too soon to wake up.