I’m not sure when it happened. It seems that one day I was walking on those shaky knees, climbing in the car with plenty of minutes to spare, plugging an address into my GPS, watching for the right signs, sitting for a while in the parking lot until I felt brave enough to get out of the car, and the next, I didn’t do any of that.
In fact, I was late.
It was one of those mornings that comes too soon; usually, after a couple of snoozes, turning on my lamp and remembering the coffee that awaits nudges me awake enough to pad into the kitchen. But I’d stayed up too late, and I wasn’t ready for morning, so I padded to the couch, where I pulled a blanket over me and tried to wake up. It took 15 minutes for me to make it to the kitchen, and it was too many; then, the Interstate was more clogged than usual, and I sent a message to my boss: “Running a few minutes late…see you soon!”
It felt normal; after all, we all run late sometimes, and this city is more forgiving than some because the traffic here touches everyone at some point. I breezed in three minutes late, sat down at my desk, began making notes for the day and checking my email. It hit me 45 minutes into the morning. It hit me like revelation. It hit me, and my breath caught somewhere in my chest. I stared out the window, watching the way the 9:15 a.m. sun has a knack for making everything seem all gold.
The air has turned; even on the warmest days, the wind blows hints of an autumn we’re all anticpating. The humidity that came and landed on us, making everything that happened feel like it was happening in slow motion, has lifted. The breeze blows. In the early mornings, I walk outside and feel the snappy air on my bare legs, and I tell myself that soon, it will be tights every day. This is what we’ve all been waiting for, what I’ve been waiting for, maybe more so this year than ever before.
I take my daily lunchtime walk down to the corner coffee shop, where the man behind the counter already recognizes me. “How are you today?” he asks, and I think about the golden light, the snappy air, the way everything has settled. “I’m doing really well,” I say. I don’t give him my order yet, but there’s no one behind me. My fingers land on a package of almonds, a bar of chocolate, a container of cut fruit, but I finally decide on just coffee, and tell him I’ll have my usual.
If he had more time–or maybe if I did–I’d tell him it’s always been my usual, once the weather turns. I’d tell him there have been other baristas who knew this, whose eyes smiled when I walked in, who asked how I was doing.
I would have told him I wore this dress last fall, too, that’s it’s one of my favorite dresses, that we’ve done lots of days together.
I might have told him that the way it was this morning was the way it had been a hundred times; when the adrenaline rush of newness lapses, it gets more difficult to pad into the kitchen. I would have mentioned that I often found the couch first, pulled a blanket over me, waited for the fog of too few hours asleep to lift. “It was a different couch, sure,” I might have noted. “That one was green, but it was the same routine anyway.”
The drive to work, praying for green lights; the peanut butter toast; the email-checking, the morning light, everything all gold–this, I might have said, existed in another life, too.
I wonder why they don’t tell you. I wonder why we’re all not required to take a class or, at the very least, sit in on a speech that gives us some bullet points for how to make a new starched life feel like sweatpants again. That’s where I was before–everything so known and comfortable, the sidewalks tread and the people trusted, the life so soft that even the hard things were cushioned–and I’m on my way back.
It’s something beautiful, the way we let go and we move on, and we find, months later, once the weather rushes into a new season, that some things are still the same. It’s still a blanket on the couch when it’s too early. It’s still an extra-hot latte with extra foam (as this particular barista is prone to mentioning, I’m “all about the extra.”) It’s still a yellow dress, those three friends who knew me best, that one CD I made two years ago with that one song I’ll always want to hear.
I’m not sure when it happened. I don’t know what day felt mostly normal, which one never made me nervous, when everything seemed to have been something I’d done before. But on that morning I was late, I realized that it had happened, that everything new was becoming known, that many things known were staying with me, that this life was getting tucked around me. And I realized it fit.
I looked out the window, and the sunlight was making everything gold.