Monday, February 14, 2011

Chapter- "thaw"

Finally, the breeze was mild. Finally, the sun clung to the skyline for just twelve more minutes than it had the week before. Finally, I could see something resembling grass underneath the lakes of snowmelt in the sideyard. I had never truly experienced the beauty of springtime before 6pm that February evening. Thirty years along a particularly icy road, and there I was all of a sudden, crying and thawing out in the soupy, littered alley.

I breathed the newborn spring air so deeply that I was nearly lightheaded. I saw the scattered garbage. I heard the neighbor's baby crying and the scratch of a stray dog's nails on some leftover ice. The feeling wrapped me up so suddenly, it was nearly startling-- it was the temperature and the weight of the atmosphere. It was warmth. I realized it then...

I had survived. The bitter bite of Northern air. The bitter words and bitter alcohol that dripped from my leaky faucet of a tongue all winter. Bitter goodbyes and uncontrolled tears. My unruly, bitter disposition. All that bitterness melted away down into the alleyway potholes and murky puddles. It smelled like rain and I wavered knowing that I had conquered the unlivable winter and that I had made him leave for the last time. I was alone, but I was alive.

I knew that I would never let him return to these sidewalks or to his snowy pulpit to lecture me. My confusion and bitterness were finally slipping away with the winter sludge and I was emerging into the shape of someone else altogether. Someone much more beautiful. Though he had made it back once more to his old doorway via the isolated route on Highway 2 in his uncle’s rusty station wagon, it would be the last time. Despite his pleading and sobbing and promises to reform, I stood like a small statue beneath him, unwavering and quiet. He saw a picture of me kissing the blue-gloved boy and promised me that I would regret it. He promised me that I would be lost without him and I would be ruined if I kept kissing that blue-gloved boy. I could only close my eyes and wait for it to pass and wonder if God agreed with what my husband was saying. I wondered why I felt so peaceful amid the shattered ruins of my marriage. Finally, he sank back into that station wagon and retraced his tracks on Highway 2 and I thanked God (even if he did agree with my husband). I sniffled just once and peeked through the curtains and watched him go and then found myself happily broken in the littered alley. My thaw was beginning and I could feel a new surge of hot blood pumping lightly under my delicate skin.

I stared above at the sky. A transparent moon and companion star were suspended in the fusion of sunset’s crimson and night’s cobalt. I was teetering on the brink of dusk and nighttime, towing the line of adventure and settling. I was exploding and sleeping. My pooling blue eyes blinked in time to the drip of the icicles, smearing the concepts of hope and reality as tears washed the palms of my hands. Cracked wide open and warm. What would I do now?

I walked. When it was always my impulse to run, I decided then to walk. In the last moments of daylight, swept by the temperate air, I walked. I knew that I was finally strong enough to slow down. An elderly Indian woman was walking with a cane, evading puddles as she swayed under the weight of her grocery bags. She smiled knowingly at me from across the street. It was a smile that made me feel feeble and naïve. I could see in her ragged eyes that she had survived many more winters here than I ever would. Perhaps she even thrived in the winters. And there I was parading my ability to claw my way through three inconsequential seasons. But she sensed my victory and silently congratulated me. It was humbling to walk.