Sunday, January 16, 2011

(photo of my street, Sept. 2010, by Jon E.)

Winter is hard to do. I don't feel much like a person when it's darkish by the time I leave work, when icy streets preclude bike transit, when every outfit is made offensive by the addition of my ugly quilted snowboots.

And I don't feel much like a couple when my dude works overnight, goes to class in the evening, and still finds time to devote to his "sleep" habit - I've complained about this plenty, but winter quarter is in full swing now and my bad attitude on the topic has been refreshed! So. Our nights together, we are both often too exhausted to do much more than pick an episode of Top Gear to watch, and we are both (mere mortals, us) enslaved by the screens of our smartphones. It seems that out in public at restaurants, where our manners keep us from cell phoning, we can really feel together. Look each other in our stupid faces. Make dick jokes. Sketch out wedding plans on cocktail napkins.

Tonight I felt restless but couldn't bear to drag my bones to the gym and fight all the New Year's Resolution-driven gym tourists for a machine. I strapped on said ugly quilted snowboots and set out to walk my neighborhood until I got tired.

In Columbus, Ohio, people who live on a server's wage (..or non-profit salaries) can afford to rent roomy 1920s bungalows, all snugly packed into city streets. Some Christmas lights are still strung and lit, and a week-old snowfall has retained its quieting whiteness. Closing errant fuel tank covers of parked cars and making kissy noises at porch cats, I pass apartments on Indianola with leaded windowpanes bannered with Buddhist prayer flags. I picture Nick and myself in these kitchens, washed in incandescence, trying to be married. I am covering my burning eyes with my sleeve, foolishly chopping onions blind. Nick has Greta cradled to his chest, giving her a brutal cat-noogie despite her claws-out protest.

I try not to do this. I feel like a parasite sometimes, feeding off the host of my possible future happiness. Like pajama-clad Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghost pal in the snow - not able to exist in parallel with the cozy holiday party tableau playing out before them in the window. I've wished away whole years of my life with discontented hopefulness. This kind of daydreaming literally stops me in my tracks - once I come to, I never know how long I've been frozen in reverie.

The This American Life podcast I'm listening to is about the Catholic church, and I step over a lovely wooden rosary in the snowy sidewalk. I start mythologizing this token immediately, as those of us with the writerly affliction do. Catching myself, I laugh out loud, my breath clouding around me.

I finally head home, my earlobes both numb and burning somehow. Our gauzey front curtains are illuminated by the television flashing within - a light place, one I can go inside if I want.

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