Have you ever wondered about the real origins of snow angels? You know, that laying on the snow and flapping your arms into wings, leaving an impression of an angel?
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The stars and the moon were the coldest blue they’d ever been–at least since she could recall. Blue like oxygen-starved lips. Blue like the under belly of a glacier. Blue like butterfly wings. And looking at the frigid sky caused her to think of loneliness, of the distance between where she was today and who she’d loved yesterday. Eagerness had vacated her heart. The air molecules had slowed, suspending the link between here and there and, with a sense of infiniteness, she collapsed upon her back, breaking through the hard crusty layer of snow, into the soft powder beneath which sprayed up around her the snow–a thousand points of light. Looking at the night sky, to her, was to ponder the question of mortality, a full realization of impending death and insignificance.
Oxygen-starved lips. Some people have them long before they die. Poor lung function. Cold. Poor circulation. Others are found, their lips a dark blue, blood pooled in their calves, buttocks, and along their back by the force of gravity. In this way the tides, moon, and stars are all a part of that pooling of blood, that pull that keeps the earth in orbit, the moon circling, the stars in their distant galaxies and the only thing keeping her blood from pooling was the beat of her heart, its gush-gush, gush-gush ka-thump in her chest.
Some people are cruel. They have nothing to do with the pooling of blood in a corpse’s feet or the frozen stumps jutting out of the snow like perched wolves. They would lure her with fourteen bright red roses that, against the white crystals of snow, would warm her body with hope. They would whisper something almost inaudible in her cold ear. It would sound like, We insist. They would not hold her hand in death. But, they would scream how much they hated her for leaving, for going to the north of her mind, alone, in a blizzard and for not returning. And she would have to tuck that hate away in a steam trunk. Put it in a basement room. Leave it until she could forget.
The tail of a shooting star glided across the sky. It didn’t seem real here, her body wrapped in a snow suit and coat, her hands buried deep in her pockets, her neck wrapped in a scarf, her head cozy in a wool hat. She thought of how she could have lain down in this same spot, in this part of the wilderness, twenty five years ago, and looked up at the sky during a cold winter night, but she hadn’t. She thought of how the sky would look the same now as it did then, yet everything had changed. She could feel the emptiness of the cabins up the road; she could imagine wind howling through their broken windows. These windows she’d once approached from afar, in the night, comforted by the glow of amber light and the smoky haze from her grandfather’s cigarette, to find love and acceptance.
And the holiday drives of ten hours or more when she and Minh brought the ham for her grandparents who were so old and forgotten, if she and Minh hadn’t shown up, they may have ceased to exist and then she would cease to exist, and where would Minh have been without her? Minh with his sparkling eyes and quiet patience, always doing dishes or asking if anyone was hungry. Minh, the love of her life, a now non-existent being who almost seemed to never have existed. There was no turning back. No putting out the fire he’d died in three years earlier.
Perhaps, she thought, a part of him is in the air tonight–a fragment blown into the atmosphere, floating up there, twirling and gliding on the jet stream, until now, when it settled to earth, sucked into the moist pull from my nostrils.
Everything important to her that had existed within this landscape was gone now. Yet, the trees were important, the sky, the cabins, but they were vacant without the gush-gush, gush-gush of her loved ones’ heart beats, the electrical pull of their warm bodies, the sounds of rustling and activity generated by their presence. Only she could view the aftermath: this cold blue balance of white snow giving way to night sky, the moon pronouncing stillness beyond necessity, the stars twinkling in reply to the frozen crystals on the snow. There was nothing more than this. Lying here now felt like being alone on the moon.
They wouldn’t appear as dark shapes, at first in the guise of stumps, moving slowly over the horizon, casting long shadows in the moonlight. They wouldn’t place their cold fingers on her or ask her to follow them into a tunnel of light. But if she closed her eyes and cleared her mind, she could feel the old days through this place. She could imagine the cold winter nights when she and Minh unloaded groceries from the car, having driven for the holiday from Seattle, her grandparents standing on the porch, their breath striking out, backlit by the porch light. The now empty porch with its broken boards and missing door, a symbol of lifelessness. Blank space where the table used to be, where they would all sit next to the roar of the barrel stove, and play rummy.
She had a photograph of her grandparents waving goodbye from the front porch on a sunny June day.
Goodbye, grandma! Minh would say. He’d hug them both as if they were his grandparents, because, according to him, they were. That’s what he called them. And she could see the life in their eyes, perhaps a bit of sadness at the fact that they were leaving again, but that they’d be back–soon. And she and Minh did come back until her grandparents died, and then Minh died shortly after in the house fire. Now it was she who came back alone this time.
She wondered what would happen if she fell asleep, right there in the snow. She was warm and drowsy, the moon casting its stillness across her bundled body, and love behind her, lost to the dark.
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By Shanti Perez, all copyrights held by the author