We Draw the Line at November

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It is a month of anxious sunsets, early sunsets, sunsets that smell like leaves and smoke, smoke we breathe into cool, purple nights that carry our breath away into deeper darkness to make the night and it sucks and we hate it and it sucks. All this indeterminate smoke floating away unburdened by meaning. Or birds. There aren’t any birds in it, either.

It’s too much.

This year we’re not going to do it.

October we put on costumes and lost each other in the streets, unsure of ourselves and who we wanted to follow and who we wanted to abandon. The confusion is the freedom. But when we washed off the makeup we remembered who we were. We were this: calendars to be flipped, nights to be darkened, faces we recognized in the bathroom mirror.

September we fell into the leaves, grateful for a soft landing, afraid of what we could see now that all the trees were bare. But there were still the birds, more birds even, and we barely thought at all about all the things we’d soon have to burn.

August we sweated but did not melt.

July, too.

June we were happy. There’s the distinct memory of wonder for even the bad things like mosquito bites and barbeques at our cousins’. Surely sometimes the kites didn’t fly, but we only remember skies so full they couldn’t help but crash against the birds.

May was something about flowers, or maybe that was the month before. Once it rained and once it flowered, and it could have been May and it could have been April, but we didn’t stop to check the calendar, not then, not until the very brink of November when we just couldn’t move forward and we just couldn’t move backward either and we had to know until we didn’t.

March was easy. It was the time when we could talk about the good things coming without using our liars mouths.

February we used our liars mouths.

January would be the worst if we couldn’t build things out of snow. We built whole families and dressed them in our clothes. When the sun came for them, they died beautiful deaths, but we, we took long, blistering baths with the assurance we could not melt.

December we made each other presents of the knowledge that we’d made it through November.

God, November fucking sucks.

We sang songs about it. We toasted our survival. We forgot those who were gone, and we did not look back.

Because before that it was only November, so many Novembers, stretching to our childhoods these dumb, maybe nights. Not again.

This year, we’re not giving back our candy. This year, we’re not taking off our costumes. We’re going to run away in the sunlight and not worry about whether anyone can find us. Even the birds. Especially the birds.

 

Adam Peterson’s fiction can be found in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

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