Just now I figured out that it’s mid-November already.
Could have sworn it was the fourth.
But that’s what a change in season does to me.
Leaves me stupid, unattainable, lost in a new reality.
Barely recognizable to myself, I loathe this time of year. Always have.
Thinking back, less than a quarter way through a new summer season,
I’d learn to live off a heatwave, a sticky night, a perfect morning.
Clear as crystal, I’d be a tiger on the prowl. Feeling fine all the time.
It’s still that way as June turns to July.
Empowered somehow, I eat the heat and pray to Mother Sun.
But as December descends upon us, the strength in mind and body,
and most of all, spirit, dissipates at a rapid pace.
For me at least.
Everything is kind of skinny, kind of fat, kind of gray.
Face, gut, fingers, outlook, conversational skills, diet, you name it.
A pudgy swath of melancholy.
Not like I don’t see it coming each year.
I’ve been a northeasterner for nearly 50 years.
Never spent a late autumn in any other region.
I’ve dreamed of it, waking up on Manhattan Beach or in Key West seven days a week.
Feet soggy with anticipation as the morning rolls out.
Loose and ready, not tight and grumpy.
Ah, to dream.
This year’s state of anxiousness reintroduced itself to me last Tuesday morning.
A simple ride north to Lebanon turned into a white knuckle mind hump for nearly two hours.
That, I didn’t see coming.
Once I cleared the Warner exit off Route 89, the light rain that started falling in Manchester turned to freezing rain, which turned to angry squalls of snow as Montcalm showed her face, pleading to all, “Go back. Go Back.”
Hard blowing winds encased the valley, eager to reign terror down on the out-of-shape drivers after a six-month hiatus from the harsh elements. Soft. Cars sent skidding off the sandless interstate. Some turned over on roofs in the ditches, death in the eyes of all travelers, except the Bay State motorheads pushing other drivers off into the slow lane, testing the boundaries of fate as they crank it up to 75 mph on the unplowed asphalt, getting off on something.
The tires on my Camry are banana skins, so, I was convinced I was about to join the others in the pricker bushes. I turned off the radio, silencing Stern, pulled my Saint Christopher medallion out from under my shirt and started sucking on the metal, praying over and over again. “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my soul. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my soul.”
Sorry, I’m Irish Catholic. There’s no getting around the fear. Too late.
I made it to Lebanon and back and sat for a hot cup of black coffee in Concord.
No more iced coffee. That ends today, I told myself.
The wild ride wiped me out and I felt defeated by the dawn of a new season, once again.
Humiliation settled in and I felt skinny and fat, like a dull hangover.
I was only half-way through my day.
Then, just as the caffeine hit my sweet spot, I barreled out of this state of delicacy and fought against the tide of misery. Forget this! Forty-nine winters later, I was still undefeated. Bring it on, you miserable sow. I can take another ice-covered winter, the early dark at dusk, the lonely mornings. I know where to keep warm at night in the Queen City.
I made an appointment at VIP for a new pair of snow tires, new wiper blades. Later, I went home and put away all my shorts and see-thru nylon socks. Rearranged the shed, bringing the snowblower into a more prominent position. Switched out my summer reading material — McGuane and Hiaason — to my winter stash — any Russian or Jim Harrison novel.
You wanna fight? You want a brawl? I’ll give you a brawl, you motherless wench of a season.
I’m here. It’s not the fourth. It’s the 20th. And I hate your face.
Let’s do this.
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org