“You heard what”
“That is so silly”
“No the truth”
It crunched. Not like the sounds of breaking memories, but that of a frozen solid to be for eight months out of the year. This is where water went to die in a frozen slumber for months on end. Becoming liquid puddles of black exhaust and soaking in the ground below. Each snowflake brought the world to another place, another message to be heard, and another melting pot so to speak. But this morning on the first crisp moment the day was still, one snowflake falling in twisting motions slowly to its resting place and waiting for the party. The party no one wanted to go too. The party full of talking, melting, and dreaming. The party to the end.
The car tires treaded along the road towards the enjoyment of the day. The first big snow was always an adventure for us. Usually it was accompanied by Halloween costumes worn over our coats and freezing doorbell ringing to obtain our favorite candy. But today we were past that stage. Much more into skipping school and learning life lessons. We had made a plan and were going through with it. Even if they told us not too.
I had escaped my own prison of sorts. Leaving the house full of hidden bottles and changing dreams. A place where someone was not just a person but multiple people jumping out at you unexpectedly and then returning to the nice stage again. Unpredictable. So on a cold night enough was enough. The yelling, the screaming, the message of it all. I made a call, left with a slammed door and walked the long, dark, moonlit walk to the big road to await my ride. She arrived and took me to her place. Dad had said, “Yes” my mom didn’t need to know.
That morning it hadn’t snowed, but rained and snowed at the same time leaving the roads unpredictable and challenging. Even though her house was so close to the school dad had said we could stay home. He knew we had stayed up late talking and that sometimes teenagers just needed that time to regroup. However, he still set the rules in action.
“Now ladies the rain is turning into ice and it is very dangerous please stay home, no school, no store, no nothing.” We nodded in agreement but as soon as we heard his truck leave the driveway we rushed to the room and bundled up tight. Layers and layers of clothing were put on and we were ready to face our day. There was this giant hill at the lake that always brought out the characters from town. We never really knew who else would be there, but we would all fall in line just the same. Each one riding down the frozen spots and learning that ice wasn’t all that bad.
“Buckle up first,” we could hear Dad saying when we got in the car. We had heard dad, and it wasn’t like we weren’t listening but we just had to go out of the house. We rode off sliding and sledding our way to the hill wondering what this ice rain had made it into. To the lakes we went waiting for everyone to arrive but trying to decide who got to take the first leap into the sledding trail. Ice making the long steep hill even more dangerous than any ride at the carnival. But when we arrived it was just us. No one else had braved the winter storm to tackle this beast. We each climbed to the top looked down at the frozen glory of the shining images and we decided it was my turn. I took one foot on each side of the round lime green sled and waited, breathed, and looked both directions. “Ok!! I’m ready,” I said terrified of my life about to flash away in the bright sun reflected ice. I wasn’t ready, but she didn’t need to know that. I was brave.
My friend held my shoulders as I crisscrossed my snow pant, double layered clothing legs and held tight onto the sides. “ONE! TWO! THREE!” I yelled as she let go and I went fast, spinning, soaring, and speeding down the hill across the road and into the snow bank. My heart was still at the top of the hill as I brushed myself off and kept my composer the day of thrills had just begun. It was such a rush, one small move and I could have wiped off the sled and killed it. We continued to work through climbing the hill, spinning, speeding into the snow bank. It was just a thrill we had to have that day. We needed to feel life flashing before our eyes.
After a few hours of loving the first snow we decided to ride the ice back to the house and warm up. We took it slow sliding only a few times and making it before Dad got home. School had let out and we watched people we knew walk home, or drive to their destinations. We had made the decision to call it a snow day and spent the day yelling, cheering, and pretending on nature’s roller coaster. The phone started ringing. Our friends were arriving home. Back to reality. Asking her where I was because my mother had called the school and I hadn’t arrived. Teachers were asking questions.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes everyone was talking about it.”
“So it is true?”
“I still don’t believe you.”
We both sat frozen again, but not from the cold from the moments slipping away from a life that had been taken too soon. From a soul hung in darkness and made in a drastic decision. We had heard the rumors the day before. It was cold, colder than we had ever felt before. We had gone through this before but this was different. It was more like the second time running up the hill and losing breath and not knowing what to do next. It was a moment where time hung low and the movement was faster than someone could even catch up with.
We all have that moment where the other side looks so much better than the day to day ride of life. We had friends who had talked about taking the plunge into the unknown waters of death, into the unknown places we had come to learn the hard way about, into the depth of places we shouldn’t understand but we did. I had left my home to not tread these waters. To fight the fight of the waves pulling you in and the rip tides sucking the feet right out from under you. The words of others, the power of a mother’s acceptance and an estranged father. The world of life that sometimes you just didn’t want to make the battle again. I chose to make the call and walk away. He chose a different route involved with ropes, choices, and not sailing the high seas. He was done. There was no taking back that action.
“Are we going?”
“Will we see him?”
“This shouldn’t happen”
“Why didn’t he talk to us?”
“What was the reason?”
“No one knows”
We dressed in black, no layers, not ready for the snow. Not ready for the cold that would slip away from our hearts and leak out our eyes. Not ready for the moment of truth, not ready for reality, not ready to know this was the last time. Dad said we could drive there, and not go to school. Dad said we could this time. So we drove the half hour to town, past the pine trees, past the frozen hills of snowflakes made of just one each one not like the rest. We headed to the place to park, and walked among friends through the door. We sat frozen in our car full of music and life, we saw the tears, the hugs and looked at each other with no words. She opened her car door, and I took that simple movement as a hint: We had to go now, the time wasn’t stopping.
His family at the front of this church, and the sled of his was in the front opened for all to see. His journey would be different than ours of a few days ago. He laid there with the most peaceful look on his face knowing that we were all there for him, or at least I hoped so. I always believed of people coming back as something, never really gone unless we allowed it. I stopped to catch my breath as we walked across the flat rows of pews and felt like I was on the hill again, ready to slide down with my round sled and great the snow bank head on. I held her hand in fear that I might run at any moment. Bolt towards the door away from here, and into the frozen slumber of the world around us. I felt guilty. Guilty for not knowing, and guilty for wanting to be where he was days before. Days before understanding what this meant to the people around me.
I was mad at the person I loved the most for not understanding me, for not understanding themselves. For pushing me to want to be on a sleigh leaving to a place far away from here. I was mad because she would never understand how much this hurt. Hurt because he was gone, hurt because we didn’t know, hurt because it could have been me. Mom would never understand the dark glow of her bottles, and the smoke filled messages of her cigarettes sucked the life out of me without her even batting an eye. It was this that lead me to sit in complete silence. Complete shock. Complete grief of what could have been and not tell a single soul.
“So he really did it?”
“His brother found him”
“I don’t know”
“Look at his mom”
We were heart broken and confused. Looking to find a reason to answers that they didn’t have. We sat through the service, hugged and wiped away the tears. As we walked out of the church we went to our get-a-way car and we drove. I don’t even remember where she took us, I just remember watching melting snowflakes on the car window and singing along to the radio. The haunting inside my soul of knowing it could have been me, the words weren’t there to express, just the mess of tears on my face, and the wiping motions of my sweater were all I could compose.
Before I knew it we arrived at the hill, with its frozen path and climbed up to the top. No winter gear. No plans to stay but just to feel the cold of the Earth suck life away. We sat there until the numbness set in over the numb feeling we already had.
“It’s going to be ok”
“I should go back”
“Are you sure?”
“It is my life”
“But will you be ok?”
We slid on the path with just our dress pants and tights and went back to the car shivering from the cold and learning lessons no one could ever explain to us until we felt it ourselves. The car drove us to my house where my mother was still at work. I hugged on my animals. Started cleaning my room, the kitchen, the bathroom and prayed for the nice mom when she arrived.
It was late, and I was in bed, but she knew I was back. She opened my door slowly patted me on the head, took the dogs out, let them back in and went to her evening news. That night as the light left and the snowflakes fell to join others I knew he had found a better place. A place where he didn’t hurt. A place where only he knew. A place that was better than here.
The window sill filled with snowflakes waiting for their destinations. Frozen cold awaiting the long months until spring. They waited to find the warmth from the sun that world turn their cold world back into to drops to fall from the sky again. I knew that my life would never end that way. That others mattered, and people cared. The light from the moon reflected onto my bed tomorrow was going to be different and all we could do was pray.