Maybe August is the time for endings. Some of the worst things in my life have happened in August. No, that’s untrue- they just feel like they happened in August. Endings tend to have a similar quality: a slowness that’s not the same as a bleak, cold, February. Then your blood seems like it will never be warm again, sluggish through your veins, now, it just feels like it’s gone underground. It’s not the lethargy of a hot, humid, summer, with the sun merciless on your face, turning your skin from brown to burnt, when you can’t make the effort to even reach out to that cool glass of lemonade that your Mom has placed on your table. No, this is the hushed, sticky quality of the air before the rain suddenly falls in a sheet, and you’re drenched head to toe; your umbrella dripping uselessly onto your shoes, as the “road” underneath turns to a muddy river in two minutes flat. What just happened, you ask, even as you sigh and think “August”.
Afterward, you try to pick it apart: loop the past on scratchy rewind, like those tapes you played over and over until they became skippy, static bursts between the snatches of familiar love song. Where is it, you think, that moment, the turning point when it all started coming undone. You’re looking for the sign, the dark cloud in the distance, the flash of lightning- but sometimes all you’re left with is the clear sky and the thickening air.
One morning I wake up to find a baby lizard has crawled into the folds of my fading blue bean bag plonked on the balcony. It had been unexpectedly cold the previous night and the little tyke had probably sought out the warmth of the faux blue leather. I flap my hands at the mottled dark green intruder: unsurprisingly, it moves not an inch. I’m giving you ten minutes while I brew the tea, I tell it solemnly: after that, you’re out. When I step out again, my hands slowly warmed by my steaming mug of tea, it’s gone. I feel both smug and guilty; like I’ve won a battle and lost a more important war; like I’ve missed the forest for the trees, like I have once again, failed to read the signs.
How are you feeling, N asks me. “Okay”, I say - she accepts it for what it is: a barefaced lie. We are, neither of us, strangers to this; when all the stuff inside is so tangled that the only possible answer is- “Okay”.
There’s a dissonance that leaves me tongue tied; the inexplicable chasm between what I know I should feel, and what I do feel; akin to letting yourself in with the key and finding yourself in a stranger’s house. This is familiar territory, I remind myself. You’ve been here before, you know how this goes. Endings are not an undiscovered land. And yet. I look up The 5 Steps again; try to see what I’ve missed. Everything, it looks like; no progression, no gradual climb down- I’m just here. But there must be, I think, increasingly desperate for something, anything that feels familiar. But no, this is the funhouse mirror version of myself, everything in its place and just that bit distorted, rendered unrecognizable.
I imagine what a therapist would ask me: how are you sleeping, are you eating regularly, do you shower, do you make the bed, do you change your clothes, do you exercise? Answer: Well, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, but I never did, it’s not unusual. I still hate work the usual amount, not more or less. You should date, D tells me, I’m not saying marriage, babe, just, dating. I tell her a long and involved story about how I have the cow next door to keep me company. This is not a euphemism: my neighbours keep a cow, a huge white-and-brown speckled beast. It moos at odd times and reminds me that life goes on; that August, in fact, can be great for some species: plentiful green grass, the air ripe with smells; pleasant, if slightly unpredictable weather, cool nights.
I lie in bed and listen to the night sounds- the creak of the fan, the occasional drunken song from two streets away, a faint honking from a truck, some kind of chirping insect. A moth wanders in, flirts with the dazzling white light and then wanders out. It’s not hard to fall asleep on these days, when my thoughts seem to have no particular direction. When I wake up, I don’t remember my dreams.
Fact: time moves forward.
Fact: August seems to last forever.
It’s sticky-cool, lumbering, everything muted, life travelling to you from a faraway planet, immediate but also a couple of million light years behind, already over before it even began.
How are you feeling, I used to ask, inside-inside; and now I ask myself- how are you feeling, inside-inside.
Like August, I answer, like an ending.