The Springtime Blues

By Elisabeth Denison

Cranberry Bog Concord Massachusetts

The school I went to as a child had a curious little history, the long and the short of which resulted in a structure that cast out the boys at age nine and sent them scattering to other elementary schools across town, while the girls stayed on to defend the old forts at recess and to categorically and theatrically resist feminist indoctrination. The occasion had to be marked; they called it Third Grade Graduation. They made us dress up, sat us on the stage, said things. I don’t remember what — nice things that played down the fact that a band of little friends were being rent apart. This worked well enough, or long enough, because what I do recall is stopping at home after the ceremony, running upstairs to change into play clothes for a celebratory cookout at the house of our friends, and being positively wiped out by an understanding that had eluded me all through the season: These are my best oldest buddies, we have a common place and it will stop being common, it has stopped, actually, about an hour ago… Is that TRUE? Oh crud, that’s true.

In retrospect, the concept of a graduation at this age is kind of silly, kind of pretentious, potentially kind of adorable. At the time, it was cause for veritable sorrow: contained, distilled in these few solitary moments, but unequivocal. It was my first experience of parting and it blindsided me. I bawled for a solid ten minutes, which was alarming because I had not known I would be so sad. Then someone called to me from downstairs, and I put on my culottes and red high tops, and we hit the road. Because there was nothing to be done. Somehow, I understood there was nothing to be done. If that was wisdom — People go different ways, duh! — it was momentary. Since then, all of this has been beyond me.

Five years later, when we were leaving in earnest, the same school had us do graduation projects under a new initiative titled “Leavetaking”, which rung ever more of retirement than the end of middle school. Still, there it was: the weekly block from April onward dedicated to working on posters that illustrated our time there and doing group activities that made us talk about each other to each other.

One afternoon mere days from the end, it began to rain an immense, solid, bewilderingly good rain. My friend told the teacher she would be right back, and went galloping out into the weather. In my memory of it, no one said anything. (We were fourteen, so probably we were squawking.) There was a tacit consensus — Nope, not doing this anymore — as we abandoned our projects and slipped outside in a little exodus of priority. The whole thing was highly typical of my class: mass concurrence resulting in small rebellions, preferably outdoors. But that was the exact brilliance of the incident. Standing in the rain was, itself, the last several years. No one made us come in for a long, long time, which was how the imminent departure from the only place I had ever been morphed into something conceivable.

In high school we were submerged in graduation customs from mid May. Everything became shockingly IMPORTANT. Sacred. (I kind of adored it. I remember I sighed a lot, which was unanticipated and also overly Romantic.) The tent on the quad, when it went up, meant something; the chairs in rows outside the library meant something. You knew what they meant, so you did not wonder what you were doing sitting on the fire escape at dawn, first-time witness to the earliest routines of this place’s day. You did not wonder at the mess of weeping classmates at the point during the Handshaking Ceremony when the line of the graduating class, having embraced literally every last member of the school community, folds over on itself and the seniors say goodbye to each other. You didn’t think that was weird, you thought it was beautiful. Standard. You understood.

It occurred to me last year — a little tardily, one might say, given the many aforementioned eras and incarnations of this pomp and circumstance — that I get this way every time. That I get a little sad, sort of, in the spring. “Sad” can be a dumb word, I am aware, used too often, too imprecisely. But admittedly I don’t have another one for this. I think sad is it. The springtime blues are sly, the symptoms myriad and absurd, un-straightforward. But I am wising up. They don’t elude me so fantastically anymore.

It starts earlier every year, in minor but unhinging ways. Personally this year it was February, the second day of February. (In other words, yes, winter. It was winter.) It starts, for instance, while you’re entering your PIN at the grocery store. You tune into the song in the background, and it turns out that the song in the background is also the song in your head, and this flusters you completely. You type some nonsense into the keypad, doubt your memory when the nonsense is rejected, and then, convinced you’re about to be blocked by fraud detection, retreat to a back corner of the shop and call your flatmate and ask her to read it to you over the phone from a hidden word document on your laptop. And as you go away down the snowy street with bags in your hands and What the HELL? on your lips, faintly you know that you already know. Everything that follows is thus wildly unsurprising.

Accidentally referring to places as “the zoo” when what you mean is the library, the cheese aisle, the health centre, the friends’ flat where everybody congregates, and so on. I’m still not confident I know how irony works, but this might be ironic?

Having preposterous thoughts along the lines of I just feel like I’m not…getting enough air. This occurs to you regularly; increasingly; it’s the fourth consecutive morning you’ve been awoken by your own heartbeat. Mostly you chalk that up to the funnel effect, how you have get up get up get going this is no time to be dawdling these are literally the days! But sometimes you mention the oxygen. People respond to you in low voices: “…I don’t think that’s true.”

Dropping things in a spectacular manner. The dream in which everything keeps spilling out of your arms becomes a genuine daily challenge. Your kitchen is testament: “We only break things on other THINGS.” You alert one another when something shatters and toss around guesses as to the nature of the breaking. Each time the circumstances are more improbable, more impressive. And if the shards have accumulated somewhere discreet — behind a table, say — you might leave them for a few days/weeks, grant them their declarative status: THIS is what is happening here. This!

An impulse to be at edges. Rooftop gardens, window seats, land. It fits the edge-ness of your circumstance, appeases the recent wildness of your mind. When spring started I ran away with some friends to the top of Scotland, where we drank coffee constantly and perched on cliffs. It seemed the only viable salve. If this doesn’t work, I thought, well, then I just do not know.

Reverting, regressing, if not all the way to a child’s behaviour, then to the way you were when you first came here. Collectively, you wind up on benders that diverge oddly from drunkenness, outlast the latest party by days. They run on exhausted wakefulness, they run on the so little time. You keep finding yourselves cooking elaborate sober dinners at two in the morning. You keep finding yourselves at playgrounds. There is never anybody there. You never don’t play.

Getting pretty sad. Even if you are not the one who is leaving. Especially, even.

A Sunday evening in March: the mundane and glorious fact of being in the same room, sitting on the same couches, eating waffles from the same iron, reminds you of the score. It’s like walking into furniture in the dark. In the days that follow, you list around unmoored. You go running at dusk, midnight sometimes, even though medically you shouldn’t. You and your flatmate walk past the house and past the house and do not go home. You go out in the concrete garden in the rain because it feels better than tackling storage; you acknowledge certain habits.

The springtime blues are a series of alerts, preempting complacency, ensuring revelry in the final, vernal months. Sometimes they go overboard and make you feel a kind of stupid desperation at the passing of the weeks, and make you hate them. But they mean well. They mean to tell you this: You have to get down to the bone of the season, the point at which what has been inevitable fuses with what is happening and you can only shrug and say, “Well, this is happening”, and pretend you’ll never stop being able to talk to each other through windows, or sleep in a pile on the living room floor, or be in the same country at once for more time than it takes a person to marry another person.

It is June now. We are on the cusp for sure, but we don’t talk about it anymore. We don’t even allude. Amidst all of it, I return and return to this idea of landscape. The landscape of a place, of a span of years. There are people in it. You can look around you and what you see are the years and the people. And in the spring it is naturally a volatile sight, erupting with new growth and starting to move on and pushing things out the door of this past year — you among them. Now you are one of the things. But you learned when you were nine that there is really nothing to be done, except to say I SEE YOU and carry on playing for as long as you’re allowed.