#983: Last Afternoon

September 21st, 2018

The smell right now is coffee and smoke.

The coffee comes from my cup, the smoke comes from a man in jean jacket and spendy fashion version of combat boots one picnic table overĀ  from mine. We’re all at picnic tables in the backyard-turned-patio of the house-turned-coffee-shop in the Puerto-Rican-turned-hip enclave of Humboldt Park.

I’m here now on the last afternoon.

It’s not the last afternoon of my life, of course, nor is it the last one of the afternoon-themed blog you’re reading right now. It’s the last afternoon when the calendar’s about to equinox or solstice or whatever it does and even the pedants fighting it since Labor Day have to admit summer’s over.

The sound right now is wind, traffic and the gentle tripping of keys. I think I hear a train.

Summer is over.

It looks like summer, with bright skies, white-on-blue clouds as puffed and candyflossed as a child’s drawing of sky. It looks like summer on T-shirted forearms and tanned faces and bikes woofing in and out of traffic like a shuttle on loom.

But the feel is off. The air is warm, but with that cut in it that feels like it will get colder, like this moment is the last one. Summer is on its way out this September 21, this last afternoon before equinoxing or solsticery or whatever it is that makes autumn arrive.

“Sumer is icumen in,” a 13th-century springtime hymn declares. “Lhude sing cuccu!”

“Summer has arrived. Sing loudly, cuckoo!”

But sumer is outcumen out today. We don’t sing hymns to seasons’ change, and I wouldn’t know a cuckoo if I saw one.

Across from my picnic table, one of the ones painted in faux graffiti to create the comfort and homeyness of knowing you’re cool, a friend talks to Sox Park, asking what time he should arrive Sunday for his guest to get special handicapped arrangements. A woman in a hooded sweatshirt flicks and tinkers at her phone. A man who looks as old, weary and formerly on-trend as I do has headphones on ears and laptop on a special easel designed for Apple products.

This is our hymn to summer’s passing. This is our cuckoo’s song. We sit outside at picnic tables to squeeze every outdoor moment before the weather chases us in. We drink coffee and lounge in the passing sun.

And we enjoy our last afternoon.

More about autumn in Chicago

A visit to Chicago’s southern tip

The Harold Washington robot

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You are currently reading #983: Last Afternoon by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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