New York City explodes in the fall, and I love it. The weather has finally broken, hovering in the 60s instead of the 80s and 90s, and I can wear my clothes again: button-downs and sweater vests, polos and V-necks, jeans jeans jeans, loafers and even, almost, boots. I got out my leather jacket, but have only worn it once so far.
The tourists haven’t quite left yet. I can often spot them in strange fabrics, and only after I get close enough do I realize they’re speaking German or French or Norwegian. Not as many American tourists, their kids are back to school. Still, the public squares are slightly more open, the streets and avenues in Manhattan aren’t quite so full.
The students, though, are back in full force, and always around this time of year, I wish for a book list, a stock of my needle-tip gel pens and multi-colored highlighters and labels for my folders, and extra blank paper just waiting for my brilliant notes and thoughts and theses. I want to navigate to new classrooms and pick up syllabi and meet the new teachers, the new classmates, create my new schedule based on where I have to be and when, build time around it for my usual weekly events like the gym and yoga class and writer’s group and therapy and date night.
My other girlfriend laments seeing summer come to a close. While the sun starts lowering in the sky, making the sunny spots in our kitchen get longer and longer as winter approaches and fall brings the relief of access to my “regular” wardrobe, the things I can wear through fall and winter and spring, my other girlfriend packs up her summer dresses and counts the number of sweaters she has prepared to weather the oncoming cold season.
Interesting, how gender and weather relate to each other.
I know there are men’s fashions made for warmer weather. There is a long history of Southern gentleman’s wear that is dapper and beautiful. As I struggle to invest in some decent summer pieces like a seersucker suit, I make do in the summer with madras shorts and cut off tee shirts. I try not to complain. I try to stay cool with air conditioning and thin socks, if I must dress up.
But fall opens up a whole new section of my closet. I can get out my corduroy jackets, which square my shoulders and slim my hips. I can start layering multi-colored sweaters over polo shirts, so that the collars peek out; a look that still makes me feel more together than most other outfits I own.
It’s a sigh of relief to pull these shirts, sweaters, vests, jackets on again. It feels like me. It reminds me that I’ve been struggling against my clothes and my body and the air around me all summer. Will I ever get used to this Northeastern heat?
The summer was overwhelming, busy, full of travel and deadlines and workshops, full of waiting for things to change in my apartment, waiting for my girlfriend to move in with me, waiting to have my own space, waiting to find my own rhythm day in and day out. Full of getting used to being around each other more frequently, negotiating the ways we show each other our affections and attentions, full of talking about it when things went wrong. Full of mistakes and missteps and mishaps and laying awake at night in bed wishing I’d said something else, anything else. Full of “I’m sorry” and “Well, that’s good to know” and “now we know better, I guess.” Full of learning new things. Full of the work involved in heightening our relationship, our connection, our life together that we are continually building.
I hope with the fall will come some ease in our communication, sex life, socializing, events. One of my favorite poets, Andrea Gibson, has a line in one of her pieces that says, “The leaves fall like they’re falling in love with the ground.” I always thought fall was the most romantic of the seasons. Bundling up in little duos, nesting, getting ready for the winter, going outside in last-ditch efforts to remember the bright colors of sun and nature, the reds and yellows and oranges that become aflame in the forests. I hope with fall will come my own fall, my own letting go of the branches and falling in love with the ground as I fly.
There is much to work out, still. How do we satisfy each other? How do we share space together, intimately, day in and day out? How do we tolerate each other’s parents, friends, siblings? How do we continue to deepen friendships? How do we make our home a welcome place for friends and parties? How do we not drink too much on a Sunday just because we’re having a nice dinner and this wine is delicious? How do we all the chores get done? How do I know if the print I framed belongs in the living room or the bedroom? How do I make sure I am not inadequate? How do I keep writing every day? How do I know which paths to follow? What is my next step? How long will we last together?
Over the weekend, a friend of mine asked, “So is this it for you, with her? Is she the one?”
I responded, “I hope so ... but I don’t know.” She liked that, my friend. Said it was an honest and beautiful answer. I don’t know, but I hope so. Because really, can we ever know? Especially this early on—we have yet to hit the two-year mark. We still have fights about stupid things, and realize the next day that they really don’t matter. I still wonder why I get so stubborn, and why I can’t just stop talking and hold her. I still struggle to give her all the physical touch and words of affection that she needs. I still want to be better than I am. I still want to impress her. I still want her to feel those butterflies in her stomach when she’s on her way home to me, or I to her.
The shadows of the sun are longer in the fall. And as the sunbeam through the kitchen window creeps through and touches my chair, my calendar lets me know the official Autumn Equinox is this week. The days are getting shorter again. The light looks good on the wood and the brick in my Brooklyn apartment—our Brooklyn apartment. The one we now share together. The one in which we are building the foundation of our life together. The one we are slowly turning into a home.