September 1, 2019
In front of me smolders a fire in one of those cheap fire pits we purchased from a major department store. The receptacle is flimsy and always rusts before the second or third fire but does the trick. A sign of the end of summer in New England, the flaming bowl is also trendily American, a symbol of freedom and relative prosperity. If I could sum it up though, I would describe it—the fire pit—as the poster child of relaxation. The most righteous article in the Kingdom of Chill. Neighbors have lit up also, as all along the block, I smell firewood burning.
On the edges of the pit, I prop my bare feet, as it hasn’t heated up too much yet. I try to convalesce in the Adirondack chair, another New Englandy apparatus that softens my spirit. I eyeball my toes in need of new polish.
It is Labor Day Eve—a Sunday night, and seventy-one degrees at seven p.m., a dream temperature on the night before a holiday, when we’ll be able to sleep in or get up and lounge. The clouds have bid adieu, as has the sun, so the sky is a pale gray-blue. The super-hot temps in the nineties fled about a week ago, so the excitement of Fall is in the Connecticut air. On my iPhone, Van Morrison warbles Into the Mystic, and the I contemplate truly whether we were born before the wind.
There is an elephant in the room of my soul, though.
I am unable to enjoy the peaceful, fall-like night fully. My chest feels as though it wears one of those leaded aprons that the hygienist throws on me at the dentist’s office. This heaviness arrives every other week or so, it seems, when this It, or this other American-as-apple-pie event occurs. It occurred again yesterday, and the inhumanity of It, coupled with the difficulty in understanding half the country who won’t at least try to rid the country of It plagues me.
I’m referring to the pachyderm as It, as I promised myself to keep this blog light, whatever light is. Therefore, I will tiptoe around It, skirt It, discuss It without mentioning It. I truly want this blog to be about peace, love, and freckles. Let’s just call not naming the tusky giant a blog loophole.
But, not to worry! Like most Americans, this burden will leave me in two or three days. I will forget about It until It comes again.
The fire has fully formed now with its oranges and yellows, its crackles and pops. Now, Paul McCartney’s sweet tenor voice croons The Long and Winding Road, and I just want to cry. I can’t.
Why, America, why? Why must this, this unnamed It be synonymous with you. Even the world has begun to identify It as uniquely American. Have you guessed what It is yet?
Steven has just returned from New York and he refuses to take the bait of the Adirondack, instead choosing to stand. “I sat all day on the train,” he argues. He proudly sports a NY-Giants-blue and light down jacket, which is extraordinarily premature weather-wise, I consider; but I don’t want to burst his bubble. He adores the cold, can’t wait for Autumn and even Winter. If we get three or four feet of snow, he will build a snow-lounge-chair, sit in it, and stick a bottle of Abita Amber or Back East’s Ice Cream Man into the snow next to him, then laugh and laugh at himself and marvel at his ingenuity. I am in a tee and shorts, totally not ready to say good-bye to Summer.
Before long the Mama’s and the Papa’s harmonize in that pacifying way that only they can. Dedicated to the One I Love oozes out of my Bluetooth speaker, and I sing at the top of my lungs, not knowing whether I am Cass or Michelle.
While I'm far away from you my baby I know it's hard for you my baby Because it's hard for me my baby And the darkest hour is just before dawn.
Wait a second, I think. The darkest hour is just before dawn? Like a tiny flashlight at the end of a long tunnel, that notion sparks in me something akin to hope. Dare I consider that the U.S.A. is in its darkest hour? Well, of course, 1968 eclipses today, and don’t even get me started on slavery and Jim Crow; but let’s just say for the sake of argument and my sanity, that this is one of the U.S.’s darkest hours. If that is the case, then could dawn be just around the corner?
I claim that idea, swirl it around in my brain. Consume it.
C’mon dawn, hurry! I think this as the smoke curls towards my eyes.