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Anxious Warmth


A few spring-like, spring-ish, spring-adjacent days had rolled through. The street cafes opened suddenly, bursting out like approximations of forsythia. Sunglasses. The sound in the air changed. Even after a warm winter, the warmth made apparent that we had been wearing winter masks. Had been sighing more. It made us sneeze, the warm breeze did. Together, we sneezed our way through the day. Went outside at work for the first time, even though we still – as always – ate at our desks.

What to feel about warm weather? Wondered what it must have felt like to feel only the giddy relief of an unseasonably warm day. Fifty years ago. Sixty years ago. Now, the giddiness was layered with at least some measure of guilt or dread or anxiety. Uneasiness in the angle of faces as they looked up with sunglassed eyes and regarded the sun. Its reflection in two yellow dots, over-warm. No joy felt free of some low-intensity menace.

“Sure, yeah, nothing wrong with a seventy degree day in February. Ha. Ha.”

What happens in a warm, wet winter? No coats on the subways, which are damp and overheated instead of cold in the tunnels. No breath on the platforms. Just a 55-degree haze. Flu is worse in warm winters. It’s easier for sick people to justify going out of the house. The cold helps make more rational the cost-benefit calculations of the ill. When it’s cold, we stay in. When it’s warm we go to work and infect everyone else in our path on the subway. Walking disease bombs that should be home soaking up Theraflu and episodes of everything on our boxes.

A warm winter passes more quickly, for sure. There are fewer afternoons to luxuriate in a zombie state and ponder new jobs, new directions, real estate in the mountains, low-pressure systems. It used to be that we would build forts under the dining room table with blankets and pillows. I wish that I could do that now. Surely, if kids come, there will again be a time for forts. But I wonder if I would feel safer, more productive, maybe accomplished if I could build something inside with regularity in the winter.

A warm winter doesn’t let my body hibernate. It doesn’t give me rest from the sense that I’m not working hard enough, or relieve me – as a cold winter would – from the pressure of being around other people. The clouds are gray and full of rain. But I can walk around in rain. There’s no excuse for not being able to get out into public just because it’s raining. This isn’t Los Angeles, after all.

And in a warm winter, when I travel to LA with my partner to find California cold and gray and not as warm as New York, it’s easier to scoff. What the hell is even the point of living in that place if not for the sun and the jacarandas and citrus plumping noisily on the trees? No point.