Today’s the last day of Fall Break for me, and as sad as I am to see it go (especially since most of my “break” has been spent working on homework, so I barely even got a chance to relax anyway), I’m also really excited about what’s coming up. Primarily next Tuesday and the Saturday afterward.
That’s right. Allegiant–the last book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy–is coming out. And a group of us are driving to Chicago to attend V-Roth’s book signing. Which means I’m basically going to go into cardiac arrest, because HOLY CRAP VERONICA ROTH I LOVE HER.
Unfortunately, before then, I do still have to go to lots of classes and do lots of homework (still working on those Spanish essay rewrites, for anyone keeping up with my Facebook page and/or Twitter). No idea how I’m supposed to focus on school with so many great books releasing this season (anywhere within hearing distance of me is a Spoiler Free Zone–I still haven’t gotten my hands on Once We Were, or House of Hades, ORRR The Dream Thieves), but I’m working on it.
In the meantime, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for creative writing class last semester, called “The City Will Wake.” Since I adore cities so much–especially New York–I wanted to try writing from the perspective of someone who doesn’t like them.
I wrap my jacket more firmly around myself and take a step into the park.
There is frost on the ground—a layer of prickly grey fur that coats the grass, which is brown and limp. To my right is a pond, its surface glossy and white. Warm yellow Christmas lights wink overhead, hung and forgotten between the maple branches crisscrossing the path. The sun should be rising by now, beyond the sky’s sheet of deadened clouds, but the park is dim and cool.
The heels of my boots click against the sidewalk. Although the city is awake beyond the trees, here the rumbling, screeching call of the taxis is a movie score it is easy to forget.
During the moment I walk to meet my friends, I am alone, like I almost always am in New York, surrounded by strangers.
My hands sweat in my pockets. I know it is better than exposing them to the dry air, but the stickiness makes them itch. My lips are chapped, my ears frozen. I wonder how many people have walked this path—how many people have felt their cheeks grow stiff with the blood and cold.
My eyes water as the wind breathes against them.
If this is spring, I cannot imagine the city coming alive because of it.
In only one week, I will get to go home, and there will be tulips and little green buds on all the trees. That is a true spring. But I cannot imagine making it a whole week longer surrounded by so much concrete. I will drown.
Felix and Caroline wait for me beside the carousel with their faces pink, eyes squinted against the wind. There are smiles tacked firmly to their lips. The grand, colorful carousel horses rattle on brass poles behind them while a woman in a dress that is much too thin for this weather passes, pushing a stroller. Felix extracts a gloved hand from his pocket and waves to me. “Good morning!” His voice is hoarse from the cold, but cheerful nonetheless.
“I think you and I have different definitions of good,” I say.
“Well ‘bad morning’ to you, then,” he says.
Caroline hands me a blue travel mug with steam rising from its lid and we begin our daily trek through the park. At first the skyscrapers are visible beyond the barren tree branches, but as we venture further down the path, the cement and brick slowly disappear behind layers of nature. It is leafless and dead nature, yes, but it is also still more alive than the buildings and the cars.
We pass the petting zoo and another pond that has a surface like frosted glass; we pass a play structure and businessmen in suits, and people who are our age, out walking their fluffy little dogs while talking on cell phones. Gradually the street lights flicker out overhead and the clouds move from silty grey to navy-tinged white. They are a second skin, hugging the sky, keeping the sun out. My toes are numb in my boots. My legs are stiff, nerves tingling, knees refusing to bend.
“I can’t wait until my internship is over.” I lift my coffee to my lips and suck in the bitter-sweet scent before taking a sip. Warmth spreads through my mouth, down my throat, comes to rest in my stomach. Caroline clucks her tongue.
“How in the world do you manage to hate New York City?”
“The same way you manage to love it, I guess,” I say. Felix laughs.
“You’ve been here for two months and you haven’t found a single thing you like?” Caroline asks. “Come on. You leave in a week. There must be something you’re excited to tell everyone back home about.”
“Yes. I’m excited to tell them I’m never going to leave there ever again.”
Caroline rolls her eyes and brushes her white-blond bangs off her forehead, but doesn’t retort. We’re nearing the edge of the park now, our office building coming into view, rising over the shorter buildings that surround it.
I take another sip of my coffee, feel its warmth in my fingers despite the wind biting against them, and turn back once to look at the brown skeletons that are the trees and the slippery yellowed mess that is the grass. Children interrupt my view as they run by, laughing and screaming in plaid skirts and ties. The clouds are heavy overhead. I wonder how different it would be to grow up here, rather than back home.
The rising sun breaks through the clouds overhead, and for a second the skyline visible beyond the leafless treetops turns from dull grey to a thousand shining colors. Beautiful. Like the concrete is not a cage to drown in, but a structure on which to stand.
Maybe in the summer it would look that way more often. Maybe like the trees, the city has not truly been dead all this winter as it has appeared to be—it has only been asleep. And spring will come eventually.
I tilt my face towards the warmth, towards the light, and there is the thought that I might miss this after all. Not the city as a whole, but moments like this. With the sunrise warm on my face and my toes numb in my boots. The air thin and dry and perhaps not full of life itself, but waiting for life to occur.
Felix asks, “Is that a smile I see on the Great Miss Farm Girl’s face?” He stops where he and Caroline have walked ahead until I catch up. His eyes are on the sunrise, too. He blows on his coffee, sending a gush of pearly white steam into the air. It seems to dance as it hovers then rises towards the clouds.
“No, of course not,” I say. “Why would I ever be smiling? That’s crazy.”
“Good, because otherwise we’d have to invite you back sometime.” He nudges me with his shoulder, and I allow myself half a grin. I hear Caroline’s steps as she walks to us, and then she stops on the other side of Felix. Together we watch what little of the sunrise is visible between the skyscrapers and clouds. It is orange and pink and yellow, melting the frost, melting the cold, bringing with it a breath of warm air that smells of soil and leaves and flowers.
Spring. Home. Soon.
“I’ll return someday,” I say.
“Yeah?” Caroline’s tone is not surprised. Felix throws his arms around the both of us and squeezes. Caroline laughs. It is easier to smile as the sunlight warms my cheeks.
“Yeah,” I say. “Maybe.”