Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Daily Story 154: Staying Undercover

The train rattles on rusting supports over a world of grey - the city is a monochrome still life draped in clouds, cold air pressing against the glass as I wait for my stop to arrive. A brief view of the countryside between buildings shows only snow, black skeletons of trees reaching out occasionally to claw at the sky. I close my eyes and for a moment in my head springtime blooms, golden light igniting the fields in an explosion of life and warmth. No. I force the thought out of my head, but I can feel it lingering there and waiting for a moment of weakness. I need to remain calm, cold, silent like the winter. My thoughts are snowflakes, insubstantial static filling my mind and drowning out the sunlight. The green fields in my memory are blanketed like the ones outside the city. White. Frozen.

Spring used to be the hardest time of year for me. Forcing myself to be cheerful was torture when all I wanted was solitude, when I longed for the human race to vanish and leave me alone. The new life spreading over the parks and farms mocked me, taunted me. Winter was easy by comparison. I could avoid contact with everyone, each person wrapped in coats and scarves and hats that held in heat while they pushed away contact. I know the moment those positions switched, when winter became a burden that weighs down on me like the snow on branches. She sat next to me one summer morning, a hot day that matched my temper at the neighbors who kept me awake all night partying. She should have sought to position herself as far from others as possible, should have tried to prevent the press of sweaty skin and damp armpits that filled the train car though it wasn't yet noon.

Instead she sat next to me. She asked me about the book I was reading, and I asked her where she was headed. By the time we got off the train a cool breeze had picked up and the day seemed livable again. I changed my schedule to run into her more often. She had a boyfriend, but I didn't care - I told myself that I was only interested in her as a curiosity, her hair the deep red of autumn leaves and eyes like moss. She was nothing but another person, and I was detached. So I told myself. Winters became harder though, the cold driving her deep into her burrow of wool and fur. Spring felt as close as the sight of her eyes, but I forced myself to embrace the snow and remain cold. Her boyfriend left her yesterday, and as soon as she told me I felt just how hard it had been for me, the struggle I had denied. Rather than feeling sympathy for her or disgust at how people treat one another I wanted only to throw off the veil of winter and dance through sunlit valleys of flowers.

The train comes to a screeching halt and I step off, feeling the sting of cold air as it cuts through my jacket. She is standing there on the platform, waiting for me, and I clamp my heart down tight. My emotions are frozen, as they should be. She doesn't care about me, doesn't love me, she only talks to me out of boredom. She looks up at me and her skin is like the snow, he eyes are hard as diamond. I tell myself this, but as the brightly-colored scarf falls away from her face I am dazzled by the smile she had hidden beneath it. In a rush, uncontrolled, she throws her arms around my neck and kisses me for the first time. The world is enveloped by her love as it passes through me, the warm comfort of fresh-baked bread or socks straight from the dryer. I'm falling, oblivious of everything but her lips, forgetting my ancient duty. I pull free finally as I hear - as if from a great distance - the cries of shock. Looking around, the city is bathed in golden light that streams out of a summer sun. The countryside is a vibrant green, blossoms and butterflies drifting on the breeze. The other gods are going to be furious when they find out, but winter is so far out of my reach now that I can't do anything about it other than laugh.