Eliot got it wrong – April is not the cruelest month, unless you’re the kind of person who needs a better accountant. Misery is a regional thing, and New York has two click two click two months rife with more woe than a mere mortal can bear: February, and August.
What these calendar poles have in common is erosion. February’s weather isn’t any worse than December’s, but ’round about, say, last week we’ve had winter so long we can’t remember any other state, of mind or matter. We abrade under the salt and sand, traction grinding us smooth. S.A.D. leaks from every bundled muffler, shuttered window, and raised collar; the stashes of tissues are all used up, the winter coat isn’t full of banked and promising warmth so much as it is heavy, drab, and bulky. Sweatshirt pockets are stripped of mementoes of winters past, saggy with the trespass of frequent hands. The hiss of the heat, the slush of cars in snowflurry washback, the gritty filth of permafrost plates tucked under stoops and at the mouths of alleys. Enough, enough, enuffawreddy.
And August is the same, only hotter.
The other thing common to life in February and August is that people don’t realize, by and large, that they have gone hooting crazy by the end of the month. But more about that another time. The good news is that it’s about to be March, and March has a whole nother feel to it. New carpet, fresh coat of paint, and if I’m sure we’ll track water on the floor for a few weeks at least the wetted floor will be spry and yielding. Or something. This is when the new year really begins. Just ask the trees.