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this is when you call the person you’re thinking about [narrative]

love and loneliness in november

Okay, so maybe it’s that time of year.

Maybe it’s that time of year when I begin feeling sorry for myself, just a little. I begin to wonder why I’m studying, or writing, or living here at all—not necessarily in a depressed way, but also, if I’m being honest, maybe in a depressed way. Maybe it’s the midterms, but I find myself evaluating my “progress” not just academically, but also emotionally, spiritually, physically. And most of the time, that progress doesn’t match the hopes I unknowingly harbored. In the same way I blame the East Coast weather for my moodiness, maybe I can blame it for the way I look at my pale, misshapen body in the mirror. I know I’ve loved it before, but for some reason, the imperfections become unmistakable in November.

In other words, maybe it’s that time of year when everything begins hitting at once: weary bones, small heart-tugs for home, stormy weather that calls for stormier, sleep-deprived nights. The strangers I walk past seem to echo a similar dispirit, their postures slightly droopier, the bags under their eyes a little darker than before. It’s that time of year I begin to ask myself if the people I love on this campus love me back—if they are as clingy as I am, as attached as I am to our small meals and to our arbitrary, affectionate banter. The Northeast cold seems to embed in me a lukewarm longing—to be held, to be loved even more fully than when the days were bright. And the thing is, I don’t think I’m alone in my yearning. I think these edges of winter make us all want someone who will hold our darkest secrets with gentle hands.   

It’s especially during this time of year, then, that the world is ours. 

Because it is now, in these moments of concentrated vulnerability and earnest longing, that we can experience the fullness of ordinary love. We are just one ERC coffee muffin, one carefully-chosen emoji, one hug away from each other. The miracle of this season is that a chill always makes way for grateful warmth.* So despite the gloom of the past week, we can cling onto each other, attempting, however imperfectly, to love. We walk downtown to munch on warm pretzel bread, spectate bar trivia, and apologize to each other. We meander into bookstores and share home-cooked meals. We text each other late into the night about love poems we found on Instagram. And also the TikToks. We gather around a ketchup-stained table at Jo’s, and we bicker and steal others’ fries, and afterwards, we ask if everyone got home safely.  

“Our personas are melting away,” my friend mused during our midnight dinner. “I feel like I’m seeing the good parts of people now.” Maybe, I thought to myself, that’s another way of saying that we’re learning to love each other even better. 

If there is ever a month that joy, melancholy, and time collapsed together, it must be November. In November, we are lonely yet loved. In November, we feel the pangs of homesickness yet excitedly wander the night-lit streets downtown. In November, we are weary but marked by that trademark twinge of hope—college kids surrounded by other college kids who just want to find love. 

the wind ran its fingers through my hair and over my arms

and through my legs and between my parted lips

and i have never known that God could hold me this completely,

could tell me, in one astounding breath

that i am loved. that i am healed and will be healed,

And if God tells us love through the wind, perhaps we tell each other love through coffee muffins and ketchup stains. 

“This is when you call the person you’re thinking about,” my friend said during a lull in our impromptu karaoke session. She was only filling in the awkward silence, I think—and I hadn’t even been paying attention to the song because I was scrambling to finish my homework. Still, I couldn’t help but hear her words. There was such poetry in them. They spoke so beautifully to the dual magic and melancholy of November.

Because it’s true. Just as the last autumn leaves slip from their branches, just as we begin to pull out our winter coats and knitted beanies, we open our hearts to deeper love. And on a late Friday night, during the most mediocre, most meaningful karaoke session, when a box of Insomnia Cookies is dangerously seated in front of you and you feel a slight hollow in your heart: this when you call the person you’re thinking about. This is exactly when you do it.

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 *All italicized portions of this article are taken from the poem “Love In the Time of Pandemic” by Ashley M. Jones



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