“As the earth spins on its axis, producing night and day, it also moves about the sun in an elliptical (elongated circle) orbit that requires about 365 1/4 days to complete. The earth’s spin axis is tilted with respect to its orbital plane. This is what causes the seasons.”
-The National Weather Service
Noon. The sun shines high overhead. The sun is at its highest point and there are no shadows. There are no clouds. I remember riding my bike through the alley. I slipped and fell and skinned my knees and hands, wiped the blood and dirt on the knees of my pants, and kept riding to the river.
At night. Gogo and I sneak into the University Club overlooking the city’s downtown. Member’s only. Gentlemen judges and their wives. Soirees in black ties and dresses. We take off our clothes and swim naked in the pool. I find a diamond necklace left at the bottom near the drain. I give it to Gogo and tell her to keep it. To wear it, and show it off as though we have money of our own for gemstones and jewels.
But – she says – what if the person who owns this necklace sees me wearing it? What if they sees me with it on? And if they accuse me of stealing it, what then?
I say, And? What then?
Gogo puts the necklace around her neck and wears it for the rest of the day. But she won’t wear it for parties or special occasions – she’ll wear it only with t-shirts and sneakers and jeans.
Because, as she says, it’s all about balance.
There is no need for money in warm weather like this. The less we have the better we feel when we sweat and the humidity and the heat keep our bodies warm. In winter we need more – we need coats and hats and scarves. When the snow falls and ice cracks around the windows and it is the icicles hanging from the rooftop are the only jewels we have access to.
We pause at the small white house on the corner of Webster Street. Mama Yea who lives there looks like my grandmother and she waves at me from the porch with her wrinkled brown palm as we pass on our bikes. She beckons us come inside and gives us cookies still warm from the oven, milk, and tell her how much stronger the word community was in her time.
The air is cool in the fall. We cook soups and stews on the stove, roast apples we pick from the trees outside of the city. We wear sweatshirts outside. If the hands of the creator were to lift this weight from my shoulders I would fly over red-gold trees and see the city as it was meant to be seen.
My memories are made of brick and cement and glass. My dreams are bathed in the waning light of an autumn day. Long shadows creep over fences and pull at the sidewalk as the sun begins to set. My dreams are apples picked from trees and flat piano notes from songs I never learned how to play.
But there is no creator. We know this now. We make our own rules, our own beginnings and ends, and there is no time or space or place anymore between us – we are here together and this is what will save us from the coming cold.
We disappear into snow. Into a swirling white mist that puts icicles like diamonds on out eyelashes. The drifts rise to our knees. The days are short and dark now and we read by artificial light. The small kitchen inside the apartment smells of cinnamon and my mother bakes bread in the oven. We don’t smell anything outside.
Gogo and I. We lay in bed and dwell on words, like freedom, beauty, queen, motel, lost, love, youth, kiss, happy, fire, long through long nights, from beneath blankets and sheets in the bedroom that once belonged to my sister.
The quilt on the bed. Patchwork. Colors. The roar and cackle of the fire nearby. Frost on the window. Endless white outside. In winter we feel small – winter is the greatest of the seasons, taking away our humanity and forcing simple, animalistic survival to the forefront of our bodies and minds.
The water is still cold. Not warm yet like it will be in the summer. I take my shirt off and hang it over the side of the fence. The girls nearby are splashing water and laughing in the pool, their long hair tied back with ribbons, dreaming of Italy and France and faraway places. There is anxiety here, they think, and peace abroad. But the leaves are starting to grow on branches and bushes, the smell of growing things and soil. People coming outside for the first time to watch the snow melt from rooftops and turn into water, disappear down the drain with the rest of us.
The old woman, rocking on the porch, tells me, in her broken voice, warbled like a bird’s, When you die it’s not just your body that goes…
She tells me: so do words like past and present and future. As the days grow longer.
We are all born anew when the snow melts and we step outside into the warmth of the sun again. Gogo holds my hand. The sun sets softly and we watch the lights at the end of the road. The road lit with headlights from cars that roll by slowly-but-surely, their tires spinning like records, like disco balls, like ceiling fans, like the pirouette of a young ballerina who will never stumble or fall.
The seasons may change around us, but – we realize now – the seasons always come back again. It’s we who change for good, and will never be here again.
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