BLANK AND QUIET

Everyone told me that I would hate winter on the East Coast. My poor father was certain that by mid-November I’d be calling nightly, begging for a ticket back to our perma-65-degree corner of California. To be fair, I thought I would too—two years in Washington state had me practically on the verge of suicide. A choking, damp grayness never seemed to lift; my shoes always felt like they’d been sitting in a leaking refrigerator. But the East Coast has a different kind of cold that doesn’t seem to wrap itself around you … it seems properly old, intentional, romantic. I’ve actually been sort of swept away and charmed by the leafless trees and the whiteness and the scarves and all.

For Thanksgiving, I visited my aunt Sarah and her family in a small town in Massachusetts, one that the Native Americans once entirely burned to the ground and left only a single barn standing. I threw rocks on a frozen pond with my 60-year-old uncle, who insisted that we eat the chocolates that we’d brought for Sarah before even making it to her house because he felt “hypoglycemic.” Seemed legit.

We went for long walks around her neighborhood and saw a beaver swimming under ice. I had never seen a beaver in person before; they’re big and slick and alien-looking. The woods around her house are Blair Witch-y and were covered in crispy leaves, which produced a thick crunch with every step of my boots, and are littered with stumps from where beavers feasted on tree bark to the point of destruction.

I wished for snow. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve looked out of windows every place I’ve ever lived and just wished for a quiet, pure white blanket of snow. There’s some music in this world that you know just won’t sound good unless it’s snowing, and some thoughts that you can’t extinguish in their longing. And so, finally, it snowed.

I didn’t know that it makes everything glow like dawn, even at 3am, transforming even our dirty Brooklyn streets into something entirely innocent and peaceful and blank.

I woke up on Saturday morning at my friend Mark’s house and it took me five or ten minutes to glance out the window, and there it was again, piling up, and Mark put on Kate Bush and she sounded really great right then, at 10am with a dog sniffing my ear and his roommates drinking coffee and all of this snow.

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I never wore headphones until I moved to New York. In my previous life, my designated music-listening time was in my car, which I will admit that I miss terribly even though I often just went on drives for the sake of leisure (“greenness” be damned). In San Francisco, I’d ride my bike to work in less than ten minutes, usually so deep in my own head that I could barely hear anything—maybe the birds if I was paying attention. It has only been when trying to cope with the cramped cacophony of the NYC subway system that it has appealed to me to tune things out. But I’ve come to like it, pumping in your own soundtrack while speed-walking across platforms or chasing up and down staircases. It makes it awfully easy to pretend you’re at the end of a film, and any second, a lost lover will come running after you in a last-ditch effort to make things right. Any minute now.

But these two things, snow and headphones, go very well together. Maybe the novelty will wear off, but right now this is when I feel the most human; walking at night under the glow of street lamps that bounce gentle, glittering white onto every surface, feeling like a song is following me in fog.

I made us all hot buttered rum and I’m going to cut a giant hole in the wall with a chainsaw and fill it with logs and make it into a fireplace. We’ll all lay on the ground in front of the fire very close together, our faces only inches apart, and tell each other all of our secrets.

We’ll wake up late in the morning and laugh that none of us noticed each other, all falling asleep at the exact same time.

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