I lived in a place without proper winters for three years, where there was just a long, extended grey period between November and April that never got quite cold enough. I thought I had forgotten what snow really felt like, how great it could be to sit by your window and watch it fall all day, change textures, blow sideways. When I moved to New York, I remember specifically stating some time around Thanksgiving that I wanted “a lot of snow” this winter. I think I imagined that it would be the fluffy, white, quick-melting kind that pinches your cheeks red and makes you want to take a long walk around your neighborhood.
But this snow has been strange. It comes in these wet, heavy waves and never fully sticks to the ground. It collects on the corners of streets where half of it melts into puddles you sink to the ankle in, and half of it lingers and turns black, studded with trash and cigarette butts. I can remember once or twice catching it in a truly photogenic moment, curled up on my bed with my drapes wide open, feeling warm and perfectly protected from the silent storm outside. But as if to punish me for my Thanksgiving wish, New York has given us a winter that seems to never end, and gets above freezing only when it precipitates.
This was supposed to be a winter to fall in love. I was supposed to arrive, find my apartment, and spend the next six months in the infatuation stage with my new city. I arrived in my last city in the dead of winter, and it didn’t stop me from walking around my neighborhood endlessly, even when my socks got wet. But this winter has been different, it’s been a meteorological hangover that won’t ever let me get a clear picture of the city I’m embracing. When I’m not trying to duck into the nearest cafe to warm my hands, I’m stranded outside, getting angry at the construction and the dirt and the ceaseless cold. It’s been like meeting a new person when they’re in the midst of a terrible depression.
It’s made me think about how much of love is based on environment. There are many dates I never went on because I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house in that weather, or that neighborhood. And while I love everyone who is in my life, I can’t help but wonder how many things never quite worked out just because the conditions weren’t perfect to embrace it. We have all met people when they were in their New York Winter — when a thousand other, unrelated factors were conspiring to drain their normal charm — and we wrote them off as if that was who they really were. I am sure that, come spring, this city will open itself and be the intoxicating place I dreamed it would be. But I have no choice now but to remain here to see it. If it were a person, I would have already stopped calling them.
Falling in love in winter is hard: with a person, with a friend, with a new city. It’s the time where you just want to retreat into everything you’ve already established, where taking risks and discovering feels like an impossible task. Even just trying a new restaurant has been hard, because I know the walk to and from it will give me a stomachache before I can even appreciate the decor. And there have been friends I have not quite made yet because both of our schedules never quite align, and we’re always too tired and too cold to meet up spontaneously.
But maybe it is the best time to fall in love, because anything that happens now will be because it was worth it, a daisy pushing up through the snow. I know that being happy hasn’t been easy these past few months, and that the weather only seems to be mocking us at this point with its refusal to let up, but each good moment feels like a victory. And eventually they will come faster and closer together, and then it will be spring. And everything will feel like a good first date.