More Than Ninety Days

[I wrote this on July 21, 2006, when it was hot and muggy in Brooklyn and I had not yet met my husband.]

Today we waited for rain. Now it’s come, and that last crash of thunder sent my heart hurtling towards my throat. There used to be a tree at my window; it fell in a storm. So nothing shields me from the sun these days, no leafy green. My room is messy also, momentarily. My royal blue folder on the floor, the unkempt remnants of comedy scattered beneath it. The goldenrod tax proposal still languishes atop the bookcase to my right—what can I say? I don’t get it. It doesn’t breathe.

Always I long for order, always I want the cleanest simplicity. To tidy, I dump all out-of-place objects on my bed, then sort the pile according to where each will go. This clump to the closet, this to the box under my futon, this to the recycling basket in the hall, this to the drawers of the dresser. Once each item is in its proper place, I am—as Abraham would say—“complete.”

This current mess has lasted longer than most. I have had little to do, these past two days. I have been wallowing in lack of work, lack of class, lack of commitment. My mother’s friend Della knows a Buddhist in Queens who prescribes physical activity for depression. I have not walked my ration today. I am not just compulsive; my bones know their movement leavens my mood.

It has been so hot. I do not say that to complain, but to shape the landscape. Here—this feeling—this air smothering down upon me—this is Brooklyn in summer. This is what I remember from childhood, from high school. This is the weight that sent me scurrying west every summer, once I was old enough to go.

I’ve sworn, more than once this month, never again. Next July will find me in Stanley, or Ketchum, or Crested Butte. Somewhere other, with cool mountain air. A place where you freeze in the mornings, where you cuddle up under a comforter at night. Stanley amd Truckee used to vie for the lowest low, back in my dishwashing days. At Redfish it snowed in August. And you only had to climb a few thousand feet to find all the solid white you could handle. You could go butt-sledding on drifts, on summer afternoons.

If I can’t stand the weather, can I ever stay? Fall and spring I love, but I have never adored anyone’s winter. Ideally I suppose I’d live in Stanley in summer, in Tucson in winter, in the northeastern forests in spring and fall. But if you flit from place to place—if you flee the heat, or cold—you never get to see the galaxy of fireflies, in June in North Carolina. You miss lightning cracking outside your fifth-floor window, on this hazy day seeking redemption. You lose the full cycle. You do not watch the seeds you planted bear fruit. No matter what the packet says, it takes more than ninety days.

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