What February is Like: a trip to the downtown library on a Thursday

February is like pushing a double stroller full of big kids to the subway station.

It’s like the halmoni* who steps onto the train with an elegant walking stick made of real wood. Her white hair swoops away from her face. She wears a bright purple coat and purple floral pants. Her smile is kind and generous. She guesses the kids’ ages and holds True’s hand. But when she stops to think, when she looks out the dark windows, she sits quietly with sad eyes.

February is like the woman sitting next to the halmoni on the train. She clutches her pink prayer beads knotted on a green string and whispers something over and over, prayers filling the train car just past noon.

It’s like the tough guy in a teddy bear sweatshirt or the policeman drinking banana milk in the underground.

(Even the oversized “America” t-shirt for sale, hideous and white, feels like a metaphor.)

February is like the blaring music pouring out of trinket shops with dozens of socks and key chains. It’s boxy like McDonald’s and Uniqlo.

It’s like the puppies and kittens in tiny cages, jammed in the front windows of tiny pet shops.

February is like 2pm, when tiny family-owned restaurants house lingering customers and the smells of deonjang and ddeokbokki leak into the back alleys, tempting our full bellies as we walk by.

It’s like the moment I repeat the library rules so the kids remember to keep their shoes on their feet and off the furniture.

February is like the sad new books tucked away and shoved underneath the double stroller, waiting to be opened as soon as we get home.

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*Halmoni (할머니) means ‘grandmother’ in Korean, but it is also used to politely address elderly women in general.

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Writing has been drudgery this month. I keep trying to wrestle paragraphs, but I can’t seem to fit them together. It got me thinking about February in general and how it’s rare to find someone who claims it as a favorite. These notes from last Thursday describe what it feels like to slog through the blahs of my February words. I’m not sure if it will make sense to anyone else, but at least it’s a glimpse into our current every-day.

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