on a windy day

On a windy day, on a late afternoon in February, here's what you can do: You can walk the three blocks from your apartment to the store, because you need things. You need a new mop head, because you've been ever so slightly fastidious about your floor lately. You need index cards, because you've started collecting vocabulary words again - because you've started reading again. Words like marmoreal, canebrake, gracile, loblolly. You need toothpaste.

You can walk that three block stretch briskly, without a coat or a purse to weigh you down. You can navigate the rush hour sidewalk with ease, twisting to squeeze past a crush of disembarking bus riders, weaving lightly through exhausted businessmen in suits, briefcases linked with invisible chains to their wrists. You can feel the late winter chill on your face, and thrust your fists deep into the pockets of your sweatshirt, which is zipped tight against your neck. The wind will lift your hair and your spirits, as it always does, and without looking down, you'll reach into your back pocket, feel for a tiny button on the side your phone, and press it once, twice. Yes. Louder. 

You can reach the far side of the main street, where the sidewalk opens widely, and finally get clear of the crowd. You can then be seized by a feeling of such unexpected, unadulterated, and embarrassingly unjustified happiness that it feels as though someone has shoved you from one spot to the next, across several degrees of uncharted latitude, through some unseen continuum of emotion and consciousness, indifferent to where you'll land. You'll marvel at how different this instant feels from the one just before it. You'll swear you could turn around, there on the city street, and see a fast-fading ghost of yourself stepping forward, ready to assume the moment you're in possession of right now.

You'll want to laugh, but instead you'll just take a deep breath, drinking it in with concentration, and with greed.

You can become acutely aware of your senses, your comportment, your gait. Objects will suddenly shed the cloudy scrim behind which you viewed them just a minute ago and come to life, extra-dimensional. Colors will be obscenely vibrant. You'll stare at the people you pass, fascinated, mystified, vaguely aware that what you're feeling is unreal, a trick, a dream, but wishing everyone else would wake up, too. How can they be so calm in the face of it?

It. What is it? What is it?

It's the undeniable certainty that life is devastating - in its beauty, and in its misery. It's the belief that not only will everything be ok - it already is. It's the knowledge that we are so interconnected in our experience of that beauty and that pain, despite the billion-odd individual paths we're on, that we may as well just stop dead in our tracks, look at one another, and laugh. Or sigh. Or cry.

Everything in your sight will charm and delight you. Every last everyday detail: the way a pretty blonde has carefully tied the belt of her trenchcoat into an off-side bow; the self-conscious jerk with which a teenaged skateboarder shakes his hair from his face, poised and ready for the stoplight to release him; the oddly comforting familiarity of the taxi drivers' faces, queued as they are in their regular spot: Eastern European, and African, and African American. I don't know a single one of them. I feel as though I've known each of them for years.

You can have the thought come dancing into your brain, boastful and irrational as it always is, that you feel things more intensely than other people. You can feel your mind schism at the thought, half of it prickling with shame - What makes you think you're so special?, half of it quietly agreeing - Yes. Yes, you do. 

You'll wonder for the hundredth time if something inside of you is broken, causing you to feel such exquisite, heart-stopping joy at the most mundane of triggers - or if instead something in you is enhanced. Amplified. And, as always when this happens, the wind will stir the leaves in your mind, exposing their opposite, darker sides: yes, but.

Yes, but, even if it's true, even if the wellspring of joy runs deeper in you, so too does the sorrow.

And you can think, for the hundredth time, about diluting both the joy and the sorrow. About saying, Yes, well, the thing is, doctor, the depression really is unbearable at times. Yes, I know this pill will dull the brighter side of things too. On balance, though, I think it would be best.

And you can say, Fuck balance. You can say, Fuck balance, I'll take them both. Because you can, because you've been doing it your whole adult life.

That's what you can do, on a windy day, on a late afternoon in February.