When I step outside this morning, the chill of the air raises goose bumps on my arms. I briefly debate going back for a hoodie, but can't be bothered walking up the three flights of steps. I know once I start walking and get into the sun, I don't need the hoodie anyway. Overnight it is as if summer switched off in the heavens, and autumn switched on. Technically, the first day of fall isn't until September 22, the day after Labor Day always feels like the first day of fall.
I noticed two weeks ago how the rays of the setting sun were slanting in my windows earlier every day, and that the blazing dawn that used to wake me at 4:30 has crept later and later, and I find myself sleeping until eight o'clock. And yesterday was my last day of sailing at the boat club, at least for this season.
I turn the corner on to Appleton Street, and the sun warms me as I thought it would. I zig zag through my gritty neighborhood, the crosswalks a patch of red paint and tar where they've attempted to spot patch the holes rather than re-do the entire crossing. I keep a wide berth of the shooting gallery, which has a nearly daily visitation by EMTs and fire trucks, but I notice lines of people outside the community health center. Only then does the connecdtion dawn on me. The methadone clinic must be at the community health center, and the addicts who aren't on methadone are the ones who end up in the shooting gallery getting narcan sprayed up their noses so they can live to overdose on another day.
I continue my one block up and one block over routine to Owls Diner, an old dining car that has now been permanently located and a full kitchen added in back. It's the kind of diner that's only open 6 hours a day and serves only calorie laden food. I order the Irish Benny - eggs Benedict of a sort to be considered Irish. The only Benedict part is that the eggs are poached and they are on an English muffin, but it sits on a bed of hash, and is drowned in cheddar cheese sauce, not Hollandaise, although I did have that option. Oh, and huge side of home fries.
"Do you want baked beans, too?" the waitress asks, as if I need any more food on this plate.
"Nah, I'm good. I'll get a real Irish breakfast in Dublin on Friday."
Conversation ensues about flying, airlines, vaccination status, PCRs, and whether my flight will actually go. I don't says "It's all in then hands of god" but I do think that. Who knows?
On my way back home after breakfast, I'm walking past a corner block, surrounded by a chain link fence and fronted with some aromatic recycling bins. Then I noticed the black-eyed Susans popping through the fence, having overcome the barrier and hanging over the side walk. Then the purple salvias catch my eye, and I realize this is some sort of urban garden. Beehives in vivid black and white blocks are snug in one corner, and then I see Bruce. I come to find out that's his name as I circle the chain link looking for the entrance to what is clearly an herb and flower garden now that I've had time to see and smell it. Bruce is the owner of Red Antler Apothecary, just down the street from my apartment.
He tells me one of the hives was robbed, but has to explain to me what that means in bee language. No one stole the hive, but honey bees invade another hive and steal their honey. Bad Bees, I think to myself.
"But the other hive is good and healthy," Bruce tells me.
"And it looks like your garden is, too." I say.
We chat about the hot rainy summer and how most of his plants thrived. I tell him about how my lavendar was so water logged it started to get root rot and died.
"It's our first summer here," he says, as he continues to harvest for his natural remedies.
I head the last block home, sliding my face mask back up as I cross the street from the methadone lines, not out of fear but out of fear of Covid. I'm getting on a flight Friday, and I cannot get sick now.
As I head back towards my fourth floor loft apartment overlooking the old canals that fed the Lowell textile industry, I'm glad I moved here. Glad to meet Bruce. To join the conversation at the Owl Diner. Even to see how hard some people's lives are. It reminds me that even on my worst days, I have a very good life indeed. That flowers and addicts and diners and gardens all exist side by side in this new city of mine.