October. I like the way it feels in my mouth. I like how it feels round, and peachy, and that its origins lie in the number 8, even though it’s the tenth month of the year.
I like the way months of the year and days of the week personify different colours. Friday is a royal purple and Wednesday is forest green. February is pink and July, baby blue. But, October, well, October is burnt orange and reminds me of change.
When I was living in the northern hemisphere, October meant autumn. Real autumns. The kind you see in the movies where the main character is walking through central park, wrapped in a trench coat and the wind is blowing and the leaves are falling and she’s sipping coffee as she strolls solemnly to a melancholy playlist.
But here in the southern hemisphere it is spring. Despite my love of autumn, I’ve grown fond of a spring October. It’s as if we’re all collectively waiting for the ice cream truck to drive down our street, to hear that familiar melody fill the air as we gather our loose change and run outside, jostling together with the rest of the neighbourhood kids in eager anticipation for our drippy, flake cones.
The air outside is warm and pregnant with the weight of all the good things coming – lighter days, beach days, watermelon dripping down your chin, plunging in the ocean, sunset picnic days. As the weather shifts, a feeling of summer shrouds the Cape. I am pulled towards visions of wispy linens sheet falling softly onto my bed, of bird song outside my window at dawn and the heat of parking lot tar on my bar feet as I wander home from the beach.
What is it about this month that is symbolic, symbolic of something wholesome, something sentimental and even something sad? Change always has a soft sadness to it, even when it’s good. It’s a letting go, a grieving over what was. Winter’s gone and with it the past.
October reminds me of the temporary nature of being. Of my mother and her auburn aura, tinged with deep hues of red and mustard yellow. A tangible, tangerine warmth.
Although it’s not autumn, October has ties to the season that are unable to be broken. Perhaps it stems from my childhood in London, the piles of leaves I’d jump into, the orange pumpkin my mother would carefully carve and lay to rest on our windowsill. To this day I cannot pass a crunchy leaf on the street and not jump on it. The satisfaction is too strong.
October makes me think of nature. Of heavy rain, of tiny pink flowers bursting to life on the leaves of the tree outside my bathroom. I shower outdoors every morning before work and marvel at the lilac sky growing lighter every day and the birds that dance over the church spire. October makes me feel alive, and it makes me mourn all the lives I’ve already lived. It makes me miss being a kid, diving into crunchy puddles and watching my mother prepare a Halloween feast for my friends and I, delicately rolling white bread into wrinkled witches’ fingers, filling each finger with strawberry jam, pressing almond slivers onto the tips for fingernails.
At the end of a Pilates class, on a Tuesday evening, I wrap my towel around my shoulders and hurry down to Saunders rock. It is a pre summer summers day, one of those 28-degree scorchers that trickle into a balmy evening, and hordes of young parents and teens crowd the beach. I weave through the flocks of pretty people and submerge myself into the icy water, fully clothed. October reminds me of just how juicy the small things can be.
I arrive home at the same time as my person. We both climb out of our cars and smile with elation at the sight of each other. I feel myself glowing from the inside.
One year ago, I asked him to be my boyfriend. We were sitting on signal hill overlooking the glittering lights of sea point. We lay down in the grassy reeds and took selfies. I remember crying with the overwhelmingness of it all. This feeling of finding my way home after so long. Now October reminds me of falling in love.
Three years ago I found out I had cancer again. I was sitting in a study group, one month into my masters program, in London. We were sitting around a table, in a grey library room talking about our research projects. I was distracted. My phone rang. I stepped outside to take the call. It was my oncologist. I felt my whole world fall apart, all at once.
Two years ago, in October, I was healing from the transplant that saved my life.
Now October reminds me of rebirth.
Right now, everything feels suspended in this moment of change. We are busy moving house, the remnants of our lives packed loosely into brown cardboard boxes. I’m filled with anticipation for this new canvas on which to paint our story, a new home to create forever memories. And yet a part of me is hopeful things will stay the same, at least for a little while.
I like the way things are, finally.
I like that I have found the comfort of a person to call home. How we’ve built something that feels sturdy and weatherproof. I like how I’ve healed, that the loneliness that used to live in my bedroom doesn’t live there anymore.
Sometimes in life, when things are going right, it can feel scary. You can get so used to disaster, it’s frightening to admit when you’re happy.
But I want to reject the narrative that suffering is more meaningful than celebrating.
How can anything be more important that being happy now?
October, like all the months before will silently evaporate, slipping into November, and with it will come warmer nights.
But right now, I like dancing through this moody month, as if I am a part of the rain storms still blowing across the cape, as if winter is holding on to its place in the world with a tight grip, refusing to be silenced. I like the light jerseys we all pull on, waiting to be tied around our waists, waiting to no longer be needed.
In October people tend to say that they cannot wait for December, for Christmas, for the holidays soon to come.
Everyone loves that time of year, but I like October.
The imperfection. The milky anticipation that hangs heavy in the air.
The in betweenness of it all.