Last night I left work at 7. It was already dark. The bike rack outside my office was nearly empty, and the streets were, too. (Well, not of cars…) I wore a light jacket over my sweater–such a real fall day. It felt so good to glide down 9th Ave. The hot stink of summer–garbage and urine–replaced by something almost like the country: the smell of cold air and a fire burning somewhere.
That smell brings me back to college and the long rides I’d take alone. Once I ended up in a subdivision, circling a man-made pond. Once I rode over some railroad tracks where I didn’t know any train lines existed. I often went past a small lake beach, past a state park entrance, past a house where a junk artist lived (and worked), to the foot of the apple orchards. The way back would sometimes take me past the farm, or the cemetery, or small semi-suburban homes. My favorite stretch of road took me suddenly through the woods and down a hard-packed dirt road. Once at dusk I passed a horse there. I never brought a map–or even looked at one afterwards–and was often lost for much of the ride, always knowing that even if I didn’t know where I was I could retrace my path and get back again.
Anyway, that’s what it smelled like, almost, in this city–leaves in piles and empty roads and cold hands and ears and nose.