Fall has come.
When I got back to Chicago after my balmy — and surprisingly rainy — trip to Atlanta last weekend, the slightest little chill in the air wafted under to my nose and it was unmistakable. Even if it hasn’t come all the way in the house, fall has a toe in the door.
Just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant, it can’t be “a little bit autumn.” When that chilled, sharp-edged air slices through the sky, you know what time of year it is and that you can’t go back. Maybe — and I’m serious about this — it’s death. Perhaps our human senses are tuned to the decay of the trees; after all, as leaves change color, they’re dying, getting ready to fall and hibernate and regenerate later. Maybe our spidey-sense is still intact all these millennia later and when we know it’s autumn, we are scientifically right.
Like so many of my white, middle-class, Midwestern brethren, I love fall. Marketed as it is as to us a time of pumpkin-spice lattes, fireplace make-out sessions, holiday plans, etc., how could we not love this season?
But there’s a disturbing ring to fall for me, as well. It is impossible to describe. When the chill comes, at least twice and sometimes as many as thrice, I will experience a palpable sense of dread. My throat feels like it’s falling. My heart aches. All the bad days, the late nights, the homework, the housework, the breakups. It’s ineffable, inexplicable; it’s all the in- words rolled up into a second’s worth of time when I’m walking on State Street, say, or stepping into a taxi.
I think it’s called melancholy. Or ennui. Or just surprise. Surprise that every year, fall slips in with pointy teeth for two seconds before it beams with a genuinely beautiful smile.