February is always a bad month. The tail end of a thing, longer than it’s supposed to feel. It’s almost like I elided January this year, intensely focused as I was on doing a whole dry month. And then suddenly I found myself here, back in this worst month of a bad season, where I don’t have any concrete plans for self-improvement beyond just, I don’t know, being better. Better how, I’m not sure! I guess not going out on weeknights if it can be avoided (sometimes it can’t—you want to get to know your new coworkers and so you stand around in a crowded Midtown bar for a few hours, clutching a drink like a talisman). Keeping my apartment clean, eating better. (Which involves a lot of standing in the mirror in the morning, turning to the side and looking at my stomach to see what’s shrunk, like a pregnant woman in reverse.) Daily life things, general practices, all the sort of granular stuff that tends to fill the room when it’s a Sunday night and you’re feeling anxious.
The Olympics helped! They’re so much fun, a good, uplifting distraction. They’re such a good distraction, in fact, that it was only when I was walking to meet a friend on Friday night after work that I realized that it was the two-year anniversary of a friend’s death, that the day had sort of, well, not crept up on me, because there really wasn’t any “Boo!” of surprise. It had just… arrived. And at 8 p.m. was already nearly over. I thought about that, a little desperately, as I walked up 3rd Avenue, wanting to somehow stop time, to memorialize what was left of the day, but instead sending a few meager “Thinking of you” text messages before walking inside the restaurant where my friend was waiting. I know it’s probably a good thing that the day came and went without any real emotional fanfare, that it means I’ve not given the date any real authority. That now she’s just someone I knew who lived once, instead of someone who died on a particular, terrible day. That’s what I told myself, anyway.
Two years ago I wrote a post for The Hairpin about the horrible February of 2012, framing it as a guide to planning for a better spring. The idea being then, in April, that things were moving forward, into sunnier and warmer months. Which, of course, they were! It was nice then to think about spring as something concrete, as a rescuer, pulling me out of the gray dust of the previous difficult months. And spring is that, every year, in some small way or another. But mostly it’s like last Friday, just tumbling up to us and then rolling by, as impossible to plan for as anything else, save for a few fixed dates. Jury duty, a party, a play.
It was funny to come home from a movie tonight and miss the Olympics. To find my apartment a little less wholesome, almost sinister even. I guess that was boredom and restlessness poking their heads back out, chiding me for this dumb idea that I could be good and stay home every night, drinking lonely old tea and taking BuzzFeed quizzes. I found myself anxious to start planning for a better spring all over again, even though it hasn’t been a terrible winter. I suppose tonight that planning amounts to sitting down and writing a little thing and thinking about my friend and, if I’m honest, trying to conjure some real genuine missing out of what’s mostly become remembering.
When I walk out of my building and down 14th Street to the subway, there on the right, past Union Square, I can see a series of buildings that I’ve decided, for some reason, look like real city buildings. Something about their age and their particular height makes that little bit of New York seem august and full of possibility. Sometimes the hopefulness of those buildings feels like a sad beacon, a kind of a lie. Usually when I’m trudging somewhere I don’t want to be, those buildings teasing me about a city I could live in if all the dull clutter of life didn’t get in the way. Other times, they’re reassuring. There, just down the street from where I live. Sometimes they say “You’re doing it!” Sometimes they say “Here we are!”
Tonight when I left my apartment to go to the movie it was about 5:45, and there the buildings were as always, and behind them were a few last wisps of sunlight disappearing toward New Jersey. Light, at nearly 6 p.m.! As I crossed 3rd Avenue, I thought about another spring on its way, and then worked my way back from there. There was next week, and then this weekend (Oscars!), and then this week. All the way to tonight. All I had to do was get on the subway and then sit in the dark for a couple of hours before I could leave and go home again. Where I could worry and plan and do so many things that we’re so lucky we get to do.