A cold front came through suddenly yesterday, so quickly in fact that I closed all the windows in my apartment and slept under a pile of blankets last night.
This morning, while walking from school to the padaria during a free period, the wind kicked up. I noticed how crisp the air felt, how much like fall it seems today and for an instant I was at home, walking up Chapel Street in New Haven toward York, wrapping my jacket around my body a bit tighter to keep the breeze from my skin. Rather than walking by the tall whitewashed cement walls and metal fences that line the streets here, behind which are single-story homes with loud beefy dogs as protectors, I passed by the storefronts of Basta and Claire’s, Rainbow, the Chapel Sweet Shop, Maxine’s, and could see down into Sherman’s Alley (some of those stores long gone and replaced by others by now.) I could see the cars lining either side of Chapel in that area, could feel the thin white Starbucks cardboard cup in my hands, and the warmth emanating from it, that I would most certainly be carrying if I were there.
The leaves I heard in the wind I imagined were ones that had already turned red and yellow and were about to drop on the street, collecting against the curbs and swept up by huge machines everyday; I did not see the tall palm fronds, or the banyans here, or the the yellow and purple flowering leafy trees that tower above all the buildings. Rather than walking past a cement bus stop and passing by a red dirt soccer field, I instead saw my reflection in the Atticus window and gazed into the foyer of the British Art Museum. I imagined I saw my friend Norah at work in a store nearby, waving to her through the window, and I could almost feel my heels click down on the sidewalk turning the corner toward Broadway.
While I could remember the time when a black pig crossed my path on my walk to the padaria, I could much more clearly remember seeing familiar faces working at the Roomba burrito cart. I could see the posters advertising Yale clubs and shows. Could remember walking with my students one afternoon from a Habitat for Humanity site to Broadway for lunch. Could remember the blue rug in my classroom. Could remember winter and scarves and cold fingers and cold noses. Could remember my apartment and the light in Wooster Square in the evening just before the sunsets. Could smell pizza wafting up over the buildings on Wooster Street and settling in on my section of Chapel. Could remember coming in from the cold and breathing a sigh of relief.
This morning, in the time outside, in that single moment of recognition in the air, I missed New Haven–everything that’s there, and everyone who’s there. It was then, there outside on a small street in Brazil during a quick break from my daily routine, that I’d understood where it was I really wanted to be.
And when I said to myself, without hesitation, I’m coming home.