Amanda Miska and Amy Souza

Amy Souza
Inspiration Piece

Snow Day
by Amanda Miska
Response Piece

The street is perfectly still and white against the backdrop of a pallid sky. No school buses, no skidding tires, no barking dogs, no angry car horns. It’s barely morning–the street lights have turned off. There are no tire tracks and no one has been up yet to scrape or shovel.  I imagine the joy and relief of school-aged kids, peeking out their windows before their alarms go off. I imagine lovers pulling each other closer under the blankets, cold toes against warm legs.  Fires are crackling, coffee is brewing, plans are changing.  My favorite part of snow days used to be sleeping in, but I didn’t know I was missing this–the beautiful silence, the pure white world, everything so uncomplicated.

I light up a cigarette to warm up and get to thinking about you.  The smoke and my breath cloud around me like an apparition. In the crispness of the air, I am wide awake.  I lace up my boots and take a few sips of liquid heat (a combination of coffee and whiskey) from my thermos.  I shovel out the driveway and sidewalk, cheeks red with the cold and exertion, arms burning, sweat beading up on my skin despite the temperature.  The township has yet to plow, so despite my hard work, I’m still stuck.

In the middle of the street, ankle deep in snow, I light up another cigarette, breathe in deeply, and take off my knitted cap–a handmade gift from you that I can’t throw away because it’s useful. I can just hear you joking, “You could send it to freezing kids in Antarctica.” You could make me laugh like no one else.  That’s what made me want you. We met at a bar and talked for two hours straight.  I took you home, you moved in, and we survived on sex and laughter and canned soups.

The start of love is always simple. You can live off the newness for months, even years. Familiarity: that’s what complicates.

In autumn, your face fell as the leaves did. I could sense you pulling away. I’d ask you what was wrong, and most days you’d change the subject with a story.  You told me about your elementary school Thanksgiving play when you had to be the turkey.  That was the year you made the connection that turkeys died so they could be eaten, and you became a vegetarian and refused to be part of the show. But your parents bribed you to do it just for that evening by promising to buy you a hamster.

“What did you name the hamster?” I asked, but heard only your soft snoring in return.

I don’t know where you are now, likely in another city every night on tour, completely untethered and free, just like you wanted. I wonder if there is snow where you are, if you are cold, if you are lonely, if you still wear my wool socks you stole the first winter we were together.  I would make you laugh, prancing around the kitchen in my snow overalls and nothing else.  I built us great fires to read by.  I made hot chocolate that was fifty percent marshmallows.  You always said you hated winter, but I said I’d make you love it. And I tried really hard.

Spring always brightened you.  You smiled more, and we made love more.  Maybe it was the sunshine, the potential for life, all of those green buds like promises.  I liked it when you were so alive–maybe I was better to you then, kinder.  I was never good at dealing with your sadness. I wanted to come into the darkened room and tell you, “Just stop being sad,” but I didn’t occupy that space in your mind, and I knew it wasn’t that simple for you.  In springtime, that haunted space got smaller, and there was more room for me.  I brought you flowers, and you kissed me instead of waiting for my kisses, and we’d ride our bikes through downtown on Sunday afternoons.

You left me in the summer, but in my memory, that day is always painted like winter.  Your lips were icy against my cheek and then you were gone.  You said you were too young to make a commitment, you wanted to see the world, you didn’t want to have regrets. I see now that it wasn’t sudden–you’d slowly been unraveling every season–but in the moment, I was so stunned I didn’t even respond with a single word. I couldn’t stop you anyway. When you were determined to do something, you did it.  It was something I admired about you, but of course, now I loathed.

The next door neighbors’ boys come out into their yard in full snow gear, toting a toboggan and plastic saucer.  I see their mom wave from the window.   She sees me, and I lift my gloved hand in greeting, guiltily stomping out my cigarette butt. They are already wrestling each other into the deeper drifts, laughing and shouting.  Another neighbor, two houses down, scrapes the ice off his car in an expensive suit tucked into heavy boots.  I can see the plow lights several blocks down on the main road.  Soon it will all be ash and salt and slush.

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