Fall is my favorite--I like to think it's a time for new beginnings.
Public school years start, universities open, and colder, crisper air replaces the stagnant, moist collections that have been dangling all around us and in us the entire summer. That air was heavy repressive; it held us back. Fall winds push us forward, propel us into what we believe and hope and wish are greater things.
The months and moments that make up fall are unpredictable. A walk outside could require a coat, or just a scarf. Maybe you'll see your breath, but only maybe. Smokers look better in the fall, too. Anyone who doesn't believe this has never straddled scaffolding on Broadway and East 10th, watching them puff and crack up at some pointless joke their smoking buddies made. The monotony of it is lost in fall's shifting way of unhinging the routine: they draw the cigarette up--inhale--wait--exhale. It becomes something else altogether, though I'm not sure that I could say exactly what it becomes during those months. It 's warm outside, but not sticky enough to make you fidgety. It's chilly, but not cold enough to make those smoker-spy trips to the scaffolding--the wall, the bench, wherever--unbearable.
Fall is about finding new ways to say old things, and I find that nice. Routine comments are reborn when summer slips away and fall rolls in. The tedious sayings and doings of summer become dul midway through July, but suddenly there are new ways to spend afternoons: there is a new season to prepare for. Instead of a cold drink, let's get a hot coffee together tomorrow; if we are bored, we can take a walk and watch the colors of the leaves turn, rather than laying out at the beach down the street. Even when you run out of things to talk about, the weather comes to your rescue; it's different, and in following that pattern, we become, if even in just the slightest of ways, different too.
Being outside is exciting, sometimes even daring. The wind may decide to whip your hair about, but it's okay, because it's happening to everyone else around you, and there's an odd comfort in shared messy hair. In a city where strangers do not usually exchange smiles unless they are exchanging numbers, fall brings people together in a roundabout manner. Newspapers slip from hands, feet miss subway steps, and hands go rushing out from every direction. Thank goodness no one was hurt, no op-eds harmed.
And people-watching is an activity some center their lives around, when they're not too busy living them. Because the weather is so perfect, it is not unpleasant to sandwich yourself between a couple with a rowdy dog and a woman with two toddlers on a bench in Washington Square Park, watching the world pulse and pass by.
Married men checking out the flirtatious NYU girls, hipsters slouching while pursing their lips, there is the random father kicking a soccer ball with his son. That same fanatical man forever standing atop the fountain pillars in a cape, waving a rusty sword around and daring anyone to challenge him in a duel. The arguing boyfriend and girlfriend, when you get daring enough and can perfect the I'm-not-listening face.
All of these things you see you laugh at, mock even, when you know, you know it will be you maybe an hour from then. That's the crazy thing about the city: no one cares about other people, except for when they do.
And fall is the perfect observing forum for this kind of phenomenon. In between the half-naked trees and the pathetic puddles that won't freeze up for several more weeks, dozens of universes exist and sometimes happen to collide. You are here, I am here, let's ignore each other while I listen to you complain about your bikini wax and What's-His-Face's lack of commitment into your cell phone. Dishing out sympathy, advice or a wake up call in my head. For whose sake, I don't know. Maybe yours, more likely mine. But remember, I don't care.
And all the while, the wind is pushing people together, pulling them apart. It is comforting and savage all at once. When you huddle with someone in between the tall columns of Silver Center, hiding from the gusts blowing your skirt up, your knees clanging together, you feel excitement. Because even though it's cold and you think you've never been this cold, wondering why you didn't throw on a jacket, what a stupid thing to forget, you are giggling like a maniac and laughing louder and louder. Fall can make any situation more dramatic, more life changing. I think I'm in love with what everything and everyone is, in the fall.
But then the season changes, doesn't it? Of course it does; it has to. I sometimes forget that, when I exit the subway on the Avenue of the Americas in the mornings, gliding my hand along the banister as I race up the stairs, smelling that crisp autumn scent that tricks me into thinking I can taste this slippery season in the smallest corners of my mouth. I forget that I need it to change, to skulk away as stealthily as it came.
It's just that sometimes the things coming out of other people's mouths sound half-assed to me; even some of the things I say have a tinny, hollow feel to them, just hanging in the air. In the darkest rooms of my mind, I fear it all might be pretend.
But in the fall, that kind of crap is okay. It's just easier to take a page out of fall's book, and let impatient winds sweep everything away, both pesky and wanted. It's hard, when you first realize that wonderful beginnings sometimes come to disappointing ends. But there's a small kind of comfort in knowing that when that wind abates, another is coming soon. It's on its way bringing the conversation from the other side of the fountain, the smoke from someone's dying cigarette, the hope you've been counting on and holding your breath for.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.