Downhill From Here

First, you admit that you really did notice how short the days have become. You didn’t want to say anything, but you’d glance at the clock sometimes when you switched on the lamp, and watched the numbers roll slowly back until suddenly it seems dark by the time Brian Williams arrives at your house in the evening.

You notice the flowers in the neighborhood are still in bloom, but they’re not thriving anymore.

You watch football replace baseball and tennis and golf on TV and the news. You like football, but you could have waited a little longer for it.

You notice the cat isn’t shedding as spectacularly as he was just a few weeks ago.

You see college students in town again, and start thinking about what it was like to be one. You always loved it. You start digging through the shelves for authors you read when you were in college, like you do this time every year. Anne Tyler. Roddy Doyle. Anne Rivers Siddons. Herman Melville, for God’s sake. You remember curling up in a beanbag chair in the dorm, reading them, Walkman perched atop your head; now you curl in a rocking chair with the same books, pretending you don’t remember how they ended, iPod plugged directly into your brain.

Reading the same books makes you want to listen to the same music. You put the Arc Angels and Tom Petty and Bruce Hornsby aside, and you find John Hiatt and Paul Simon and Prince. You remember you could never study listening to their songs. You didn’t care then and you don’t now.

You remember the year you fell in love with Shakespeare, and crawl on the floor retrieving mass-market copies of Hamlet and Richard III with the same slightly nerdy shame you had at 19. You read them again, looking up once in a while to make sure no one is watching.

You listen to football games and want to be there, shelling peanuts and squinting into the sun and drinking watery Coke from an overpriced souvenir cup. You would sit in the stands for hours, scorching your shoulders and face and hands, before you learned to slather on sunscreen. You would scream yourself hoarse when you sat in the student section, while now you’re with the other thirtyfortysomethings and sometimes you’re the only one really screaming. You still bring home the free souvenir pompoms and foam number-one fingers, tucked into your pocket or under your arm since you no longer have a dorm room to hang them in. They will live with you in your car until the last game has been played.

You wake up to run one morning and feel no early pulse of heat in the air. Then you wake up a few weeks later and feel the first chill, like a foot dipped in a creek. You think of running in college, playing loud music, and you dial up Prince on the iPod, which is easy, because he was already there — you were listening to him when you reread Saint Maybe the other night. It’s comforting to think you will always have Prince. And Anne Tyler. Although they might not be comforted to find themselves together.

The afternoon sunlight becomes yellow instead of white.

You look at the date one morning and remember one of your favorite cities, underwater, and the people left to suffer there. This used to only happen in other countries.

You look at the date one morning and remember a clear bright Tuesday that became one of the worst days anyone can remember. This used to only happen in other countries.

You think about how terrible things seem to happen this time of year, and it makes you go back to the rocking chair with Anne Tyler and Prince.

You start wearing jeans during the day. Then socks. Then gradually the Birkenstocks get kicked farther and farther up under the bed until the day you can’t find them easily and slip on the boots instead.

The first yellow leaf lands on your car like a sign from God, except you already knew what He was telling you, weeks ago when you switched on the lamp a few minutes earlier.


11 Responses to “Downhill From Here”

  1. You’ve left me “type-less”! This is beautifully written. I was right there with you all the way.

  2. pandemonic Says:

    Boy you hit the nail on the head. I especially hate how when my alarm goes off at 6 a.m., it’s still pitch dark outside. I can see a visit to my doctor for some meds is in order. Pre SAD meds…

  3. Stellar post. Beautifully composed.

  4. A few years ago, about this time, I noticed a colt across the way seemed to be having the time of his life, running back and forth across his pasture, kicking, and jumping. He’d been born that summer, and it had been a very hot one. When I stepped on to the porch, to watch him, I could feel the first nip of fall in the air. He loved it.

    I can remember being energized by that first chill, and still love it. But there is also a heaviness I wish wasn’t there.

  5. Downhill? I love fall!

  6. That was downright awesome.

  7. I’ll second that. And add, for me, the moment when you look overhead and there are balloons there, because it’s cool enough, finally, for them to fly.

    Good work. 🙂

  8. This was awesome! I think this is one of the best things you’ve ever written.

    I really have to remember to surf the blogs more often.

  9. Tigereye, that was so pretty. You should send this to the New Yorker or something.

  10. I heard it’s your birthday! Happy birthday!

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