There are cold sweats at night and hot coffee by morning. It’s never enough to say “enough”. Disappointments, like weeds, grow tenfold when you cut then down to the nub. Down to the quick, where it hurts in the white part. Sometimes I bite my nails when I’m going 80 on the highway. Sometimes I’m moody to the point of tempestuous. Sometimes I think of the old farmhouse where I grew up and can’t remember what my room looked like as a kid.
My life is halved like an apple, quartered like a treasonous man. Dragged on the back of horses, pieces of me left in all cardinal directions. There was only pre-California and post-California. And now there is only California. And maybe that’s all there has ever been, the confusing realization that time moves languid when you want it to speed up. You close your eyes and you’re 23 and not who you thought you’d be. The bits of synchronistic twang to your voice when you call your mother fades when you order dinner. The dog hair I found on a sweater last week was not from the fourteen-year-old lab I grew up with. It’s the realization that who you are now is who you’ll be forever and these relics of age and memory somehow clashed. A little more Big Sur, a little less Appalachia.
The two years I’ve lived in California haven’t seemed that long at all. It’s due to the stagnation of perfect weather. The dry summers, the fog-colored mornings when the light refracts on silky palm leaves. It somehow mummified my senses. I’ve lived in a sarcophagus of privilege. The summers can trick you into thinking you’re happy, you’re at peace. It makes you drowsy to the point of opiated calmness. It’s only here that I’ve experienced this effect. Here, where the weather never changes.
In Pennsylvania, life is marked by natural disasters. Things insurance doesn’t cover. Floods that come from mountaintops, drowning any cornfields near your schoolyard. Snow storms that caused your mother to slip and break her tailbone. “The Summer after that big storm…” was my graduation date. “That one Spring when the tree broke in half…” was when my grandfather died. Life is punctuated by nature, and nature is constant, dynamic shifting of lunar phases and cloud formations.
But in California, it’s quiet at night. It doesn’t rain. It just gets hotter and cooler, variations of the same eternal summer. It can be a stifling feeling to never know when the storm comes and the clouds all look like shapes from your childhood. Here, you never have any way to keep track of time. Clocks lie. What says an hour can feel like three in a fight. A month can shed its skin and stretch to be sixty days instead of thirty. Time is perspective in California. Happiness is all perspective, too. I can see why Eve ate the apple.
On our nightly dog walks, we find small pomegranates instead.
These are the reasons I miss the fall, the liminal seasons before and after the Persphonic bookends of the year–summer and winter. When there’s nothing but continuity, there’s no way to reflect on two whole years of my life. Fall means a time of transition, evidence of change. It’s up to me to decide if that means progress. I lose sight of the small victories when there’s nothing but sunshine.
So I made this apple tart. A “rustic apple tart”, as Leite’s Culinaria called it. I thought about every autumnal mid-afternoon when I’d come home to a pumpkin pie or a lit candle. My mother had made my bed and kept the window opened, just to keep it as crisp-smelling as possible. I made this tart and blushed at how simple it was. I made this tart and called my mom, because what else can you do when you’re wondering if she remembers things the way you do.