Every fifth day of March is beautiful. It feels like Spring in New York City. Like things are possible again. You might want to go to Central Park and feel the sun on your face there. How long has it been since your prowled its grassy edges? You can’t remember. It’s been so long ago that Central Park might exist on another planet instead of only being a 50-minute subway ride away.
But since only every fifth day of March is beautiful, that means most days are still pretty shitty. Cold and windy. Grey and nasty. Your lips are numb. Your eyes feel dry as raisins. If you coughed too hard, your eyes might pop entirely out of your head and land in your palm. So, curl up in bed. And wait for the more dependable warmth of Spring.
How did it come to this? This witless shambling through where we once took joy in every small step in Manhattan. Remember when your body twitched over some strange new urban art work you stumbled upon that you only dimly appreciated. Do you even recall the electric sense of excitement over the endless possibilities of going to bizarre art shows and exotic museum exhibits? How did we go from a sense of wonder to a half-life of scurrying into warm places and pulling hard against the strong bitter wind to shut the door of a Starbucks? How did we trade a sense of big city magic for the cheap pleasure of a warm chocolate croissant and hot chocolate?
We have become a brute horde of urban winter zombies, sleep walking through our lives in a great grey city. It happened without our knowing it. We got slow and bloated, layered with bagel-fat like the dirty snowmen that decayed slowly and forever in the weak winter sun in Brooklyn.
We started packing ungracefully into subways. Sort of rudely thrusting our bodies into places they wouldn’t naturally fit in order to get somewhere we had to go. Trying to turn away from people so we weren’t breathing in so much stranger-breath. Who knows what kinds of exotic illnesses these people have? They didn’t give you their medical history before boarding the subway. Share with you their strange nocturnal habits and recent travel to foreign countries with a history of rapidly spread airborne illnesses that smack of the plague.
The city once seemed to have a certain natural rhythm that accommodated you, allowing you to walk down a set of stairs into the subway, run your card through the scanner and board a subway car that had just ground to a stop in front of you. Now you come down the steps of the subway tunnel just as a horde of people are exiting the subway car. You can’t get the scanner to recognize your card after several swipes. Then it’s too late because the horde is coming through the two-way stile and there’s no way to fight your way through them to get on the train even if the scanner started to work.
We started wearing so many layers of clothing this winter that we slogged around town like Marley wearing the chains he forged in a long misspent life. You are either way too hot or way too cold. You can never seem to get it right. Hence the layers you can remove or put back on again until the temperature feels momentarily perfect. But every once in a while you see somebody who is wearing fashionable clothing. Someone not bundled up. His or her head is uncovered. And you think to yourself in an ungracious moment: Idiot. Fashionista with anti-freeze in his veins. Frost-bit poseur.
You know it’s almost over. Spring is coming. It must be. It cannot be winter in the city forever. Every fifth day of March your hope rises. You walk outside just to be outside. There’s the sun. That round thing in the sky you’ve been missing. Then it snows, as it is supposed to do here again tomorrow. And you think you were just the victim of a cruel mirage. It’s always going to be winter, and you should just suck it up and get better snow boots so you don’t slip on the black ice anymore and get up feeling yourself carefully for broken bones like an old person. Maybe these boots should have spikes on the bottom for better traction.
Spring has almost sprung. Almost. Four more days. I want to believe in Spring. I really do. I want to wake up and stop sleep walking.