Somehow, October happened.
They turned on the heat in my apartment building, and it sounded like someone trying to break in with a corkscrew. The colors bled out of the leaves upstate and are still trickling down the East Coast.
I kept meaning to write about things. Like riding the camel in the Bronx Zoo, and visiting Coney Island. I meant to write about apple picking– how I couldn’t let a 6th year of living in the northeast go buy without picking an apple. So I gathered six friends and we rented a car and drove to Warwick, and the road turned into a two-lane trail up the mountains, and I’m not sure I’d ever seen autumn so beautiful. We picked Empire and Macintosh at the orchard, then went downtown to the annual Apple Festival, which was like a cross between the Franklinton Fair and the Picayune Street Fair, and it made me happy to be here and miss home at the same time.
I meant to write about thesis semester. And how half the time if feels like a battle through the doubt that plants itself firmly in my head and asks questions like, “Why bother writing this? Who really cares? How many people are you in danger of hurting/offending if they ever see it? How conceited do you have to be to write a memoir? Oh, and also, do you even think your writing will ever be any good?” And I respond with a lot of quiet blinking, because doubt is reasonable and full of excellent questions. But I’ve got only a few months to go and a book-length manuscript to finish, and so I try to ignore him.
Last night was Halloween. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more fascinating thing than the NYC subway on Halloween night. I rode to 72nd street to buy a couple of the best cookies ever created by human hands, and when I emerged from the subway, I saw fireworks through the buildings in the direction of Central Park. They were because of the NYC marathon, apparently, but I didn’t know that at the time. Never, in the year and a half I’ve lived here, have I ever seen everyone look so happy. The kids were screaming, clapping, like it was a firework show at Disney World instead of barely glimpsed lights through building gaps. The adults stopped on the sidewalk and took pictures with their cellphones, awe on their faces, as if they’d never seen fireworks before.
I joined the herd of trick-or-treaters and walked to the park to see the end of the show, passing dozens of shops and restaurants giving out candy from their doorsteps. Entire families were dressed up instead of just the kids. And I kept thinking, maybe somehow I’ve missed this before. Maybe this is part of what people love about this city, and I couldn’t see it until now. Or maybe it’s just that mysterious and magical things happen on Halloween.
The magic was gone in the morning. The subway was closed at my stop, and I had to wait in the rain to take a shuttle full of angry and belligerent people who were offended that my suitcase took up floor space. The trains were delayed, so I had to pay to take a taxi to the bus, which I was 4 minutes from missing. But I wonder if the magic is still somewhere here, hidden for the people who know how to find it.
I’m on the bus now, to see a friend I haven’t seen in too long. Below the Mason Dixon, the trees are still bleeding.