The rain came last night and wiped the heat away, washed it into sewer drains. It came in while I was sleeping to beat down the lasting heat of summer days until twenty degrees of warmth magically disappeared. Fall is coming with a dreadful quickness I am ill prepared for. I am nervous of the person I will become again, holed up in my apartment, forcing my way through dark days wrapped in an old coat, thinking too much, planning too much, wondering about my life until my brain ached.
I walk down streets listening to a playlist titled “Fall 2007.” Back then, I lived in a place where fall didn’t exist, where the Christmas spirit was a manufactured enthusiasm derived from Rockwellian images of unknown winter wonderlands, not from early morning snowfall or cups of warm cider in cold hands. The leaves, still green, are showing signs of a visible death, the supple newness lost in days of blazing heat. They will quickly crisp until their color fades, rattle on the branch until they fall to the ground. And in will come the cold, as it always does.
I love it here in Brooklyn more than I ever imagined I would. Winter’s sadness had made me hate this place – resent my distance from the city’s chaotic center and loathe my 20-degree walks to stand on a 20-degree subway platform for a train that never came. But summer came and made everything okay again. Summer had created the distance in spirit to make me remember who I was before February.
The sun is setting and I walk through the would-be ruins of dying industries: envelope factories, storage facilities for shipments that no longer have a place to anchor on Greenpoint shores, the old piers left jagged and crumpling into the East River like sinking ships.
I love the imperfect decay of this place, the things left to rot. I love the weird collections in windowsills, the plastic flowers in potted plants, the hobbling and infirmed Polish grandfathers. Brooklyn’s ugliness has its own charm, the same quality that compels people to root for the underdog.
Down the street, near the water, past century-old wooden doors warped by the sea, there is an antique store filled with people’s old things. China sets, Victorian calling cards, medicine bottles made of tumbled glass. There, on a wooden table, in between this and that, is a leather scrapbook with the word “Photographs” seared into its hide with golden cursive letters. The paper pages are filled with disappearing images, the black and white blending into nearly indecipherable shapes of people that were once living.
Friends smile, play on beaches, row boats, stand on porches. They hold babies, pose next to rose bushes wearing hats and things. Hes and shes and all of them one hundred years dead. I think of the unseen agonies and dramas behind each one of these photos, each individual’s personal soap opera, how they covered all of this up with matching smiles, their personalities flattened by a two-dimensional medium. I turn the pages and think of all of these things that they are not showing that would mean absolutely nothing in a matter of decades, lives documented like bullet points, only to be found one day in an antique store to be purchased as a novelty gift.
Even our attempts at immortality can only withstand the ravages of time for so long.
I leave, passing a spot on a sidewalk outside of a bar where I once sat over one year ago, crouched next to a splattering of paint in the shape of a man’s head, laughing. At the time I was living in Manhattan, across from a fire station in a neighborhood considered “cool.” I had never even heard of Greenpoint. Months later, I lived just blocks away.
I never imagined living here. I never could have imagined living here. And I guess that just illustrated the point: how we could never predict the strange trajectories of our lives, that planning and caring too much was ultimately futile, that the best you could do was just enjoy it all – right then and there – because none of it was going to last.
One day, my entire life will be a broken computer file, a deteriorating pixel, a bullet point on some Excel spreadsheet, some fading wisp in a virtual cloud. None of it is meant to last. Not summer, not fall, not winter, not me.