It is the first full month of spring and the warmth has come to Washington with a close and sudden urgency. The ground is rich, the air is soft, and the dogwoods are in white blossom. And insides turn to shattered glass.
Call it April crazies, or a wrenching of the spirit that comes with spring. Psychologists speak of a seasonal restlessness, a wordless malaise, an unexpected fury at routine. Everything grates. Nothing is enough. You hum to yourself when the air demands symphonies, and the sound is frail enough to make you weep.
None of this applies to people in love. And no comfortable, knock-around love, either; it has to be gauzy, hand-holding, flutter-in-the-belly love, with violins. Those people can compete with April. They are all lit up and a jillion colors inside. The hoopla around them matches their mood.
But most of the rest have not shaken off winter, not really, not in their insides. It was a winter to squash the spirit, and people struggled through, trapped inside big coats, faces clenched against the cold, stepping uneasily on ground that might be ice and betray the feet.
Comes spring and - wham! - more struggle. Sweetness and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] just like that. There is the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] seated suspicion that this is some [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a hoax, that the chill will come back, that the the ice will creep out over the streets one more time. People are as adaptable as perennials, sometimes, They lack faith.
It is April when the suspicion wanes, and winter-bleary bodies are out to stand in the sun. The world is glorious and the bodies are not. "It's like all the energy is built up from winter," said a young woman just recovering from the April blues. "You've always in anticipation of something happening, your life is going to change, you're going to become a movie star, something is going to change your whole life.
"And when it doesn't happen," said the young woman, "you sink."
Wordlessly, mystified at private sorrows in the midst of a new life, people with April crazies flounder through the month. A professional woman sleeps badly, suffering nightmares she cannot explain. A generally cautious man drives serenely through a stop light, barely missing an oncoming bus. A woman sits at her desk with pen and paper listening to music and breathing balmy air; the man she lives with says, "What are you doing" and she burst into tears.
"People tend to both leave and enter therapy in April, said Ron Kimball, a psychologist with the center for Humanistic Psychotherapy in Bethesda. "People move, out of town, into town. People have babies. People take new jobs. You get more in touch with whatever deadness there is in your life, because there's so much other life going on around you."
It changes without fanfare, this occasional betrayal of the spirit, Spring settles in and the crazies give way to a restlessness that is easy, hanging out, Huckleberry Finn with a straw between his teeth. And that is the promise of May.