New York City is not silent but it feels so without the rising and falling cadence of the cicadas. The air is not filled with smog on certain days and there are no mountains to see, just skyscrapers in Manhattan or rows of duplexes in Queens or maybe the brownstones in Brooklyn. On a cool day, I wonder if I bicycled during the autumn two years ago but then remember how hot and humid it was in Hangzhou when I arrived, sweat dripping down my back and chest as I biked around the city. Did I bike during the winter then? When the woven mats were strewn on the snow-covered sidewalks? It’s hard to believe it has been a year since I’ve left and it both feels too long and too short like my mind and time cannot reach an agreement.
It feels odd to miss the cicadas, so loud and so annoying when I was there. But less odd to miss the beauty of West Lake and the ease of bicycling, the mountains so close to where I lived. Less odd to miss the street food and think about grilled eggplant covered in chili oil, garlic, and small bits of ground pork and the pan-fried dumplings made every morning by a lady with a tiny dingy storefront on Lianhua Jie . To remember the night we stayed up, walking home from the nightclub during the wee hours of the morning and coming upon a small gathering of food carts where we sat and chatted until the sun rose at 6am. And how two Mid-Autumn Festivals ago, I sent a fire lantern up into the sky with classmates in Harbin, on the banks of the Songhua Jiang, and had Pizza Hut for dinner.