(I hate second person, but as a writing exercise, I decided to attempt it!)
Like Ice Becomes Water Becomes Ice
The cold is what you first noticed. It’s different than any cold that you’ve ever felt; it seeps into your bones and plays behind your eyes with images of crystals and your breath in the air and that one night that you spent outside camping as a kid where you saw the stars through the mesh windows of your tent and everything felt like it was about to begin.
You remember every experience of cold that you have ever felt; they stretch out and around you all at the same moment as if time is a tunnel and you are the train that is passing through it but you never did understand those maps of routes and so you don’t quite know where it is that you are supposed to stop.
One image becomes brighter and more tangible to your senses and right away you wish that it were any other. You are remembering the way that it felt in the river the year that you jumped off the bridge in one surprisingly graceful arc and the water hit you like concrete and no one thought that you would make it. Someone, whose face you almost half knew, pulled you out and out and three weeks later when you walked out of the hospital you suddenly felt that everything had stopped changing.
This is the way it feels. This is the way it feels.
It had been one of those gloriously uncomplicated days. The kind where you opened your eyes and you wanted to start laughing. Everything was going to be fine. You danced to the kitchen and made pancakes in shapes that slid off the pan with golden edges and she giggled at you and drenched them in the sweet autumn taste of maple syrup. Everything changes for the better.
You dropped her off at the gates and gave her an exaggerated wink. You watched her every step as she walked away from you. Back at your home you made a cup of coffee. You poured in the milk and watched it spread out in shapes and swirls that made you think back to watching clouds as a child when you laid on the front lawn and imagined a life lived in the sky full of princesses and castles and dragons that could be defeated by following the rules and being kind to strangers who would whisper secret warnings in your ear.
You wrote a careful grocery list on a scrap of flower patterned stationary: the roses are red. The phone rang as you were leaving the house and you let it go. You heard it ringing and ringing and stop.
It doesn’t bother you until later when you are feeling the cold spreading everywhere and your mind is rapid firing through every random thought and you fall back to the memory of that ringing phone and who it might have been and how you might have stopped and taken that extra minute. Years ago you would have answered on the first ring hoping to hear the voice that you had longed for. That was years ago. Ringing and ringing and then it stops.
You had been so close to being at the store. You were going to pick up candles for her birthday cake that you would bake tomorrow. It was going to be chocolate with whipped cream and strawberries; strawberries even though they were out of season but you knew how much she loved them. Her smile outlined in strawberry juice. You were going to get trick candles; the kind that won’t go out even as you blow and blow and waste away your breath on them. That was the kind of joke that you knew that she would love and you can hear her laugh which sounds like the chimes that hung on your porch the summer before everything became weighted with the pressure of something different. You remember that myth about souls and feathers but not what it was supposed to mean. The wind would blow and blow and the chimes would sound so soft and that is how you could always tell when it was going to be a perfect day.
It is the light on. The house on the corner; the one that you have passed so many times before without noticing, it has a green porch light. It is December and it has been so cold but without any real snow. It’s not going to be a white Christmas. You know that she’ll be disappointed. You wish that there was a way to make everything that she wanted come true. It is the light on and you are just driving onto the bridge; you see the light and you smile halfway to some memory. It is in the moment between the light and the memory that you hit the ice that you never saw.
The cold is unreal. It is yesterday and tomorrow and everything undone; snowflakes on your tongue when you were six, the car stalling in the dark that night, and the water as it filled your lungs. The cold is changing. This is the way it feels. This is the way it feels. Ringing and ringing and then it stops. The sound of ice. The sound of chimes. And it stops.