You always told me how much you liked the way I describe things, so I’m going to try to do that now.
I had just got home from work. I parked my Focus in the driveway. The early-December frost was still lazily slumped in the corners of the curb. The clouds had layers, many wispy strands floating together attempting to make a uniform grey sheet. The air was cold and thin, much as it always was on the top of the hill we lived on.
We called it a hill, anyway. Ryan and Laura had called it a mountain when they first moved here, remember? They were really confused when we laughed, and then we got into a senseless argument about the differences between the definitions of “hill” and “mountain.” Far too academic for such a stupid thing.
Right, so, I had left the car, situating my your-beanie on my head. Thank you, again, for finding it in a shoebox in the back of the closet when I had lost mine, and subsequently not wanting it back. The car’s warmth that had soaked into me and my clothing dissipated far too quickly; I hate thermodynamics.
I went to get the mail, the chore I always do before going inside the house. The sidewalk, somehow, still had a layer of frozen dew. The border of the frost followed the shadows of the Diaz’s house and Tyrell Jackson’s pick-up. There was a soft, faint crunch when I stepped. Not a full-on-snow crunch, but there was an attempt, like Simba trying to impress Mufasa with his roar.
The mailboxes recently got changed from the individual sub-sandwich-shaped boxes nailed to several two-by-fours to the factory-farm-chicken-cage letter prisons on metal poles. Our box was number 7, even though our house number was 23561. I don’t understand why they couldn’t consolidate the numbers to be the same— I’ve talked your ear off about this thing before. Too much, in fact. I’ll move on.
There was nothing there. Well, there were ads for Safeway and Albertson’s, but those don’t really constitute mail; anything that lands in the recycle bin instead of on the dining room table doesn’t count as mail.
The apple tree in the corner of the Tanaka’s yard by the mailboxes was bare. Its branches were thin and weak in the breeze. A plump robin perched on one of the lower branches, making it and its relatives bob up and down under its weight. It must frequent their bird feeder. The robin’s head twitched left and right, seemingly unperturbed by the cold. Perhaps by instinct, perhaps realizing how alone it was, the robin took off and flew down the block.
Our mailbox, if you remember, was around the corner on 22nd Street. The view on the way back, where 22nd meets 162nd, faced west. When the sky was clear, we could see the Olympic mountains. Today, the wispy clouds bunched up high enough that the silhouette of the mountains from the setting sun was crisp. A deep-orange fire burning behind the glaciers and rock reached up to meet the blue-black of the evening sky.
The colors blended, or met, or touched— I don’t know, but there was a line in the sky between them. It felt like there should be a word for it. Or, maybe I thought I was supposed to see some undiscovered color that would give me some transcendental realization. But there wasn’t a word that could placate me, no epiphanies.
I didn’t turn on 162nd back to the house that day. I kept walking west down 22nd, taking deep breaths of icy air, seeing how long I could exhale steam. The steam coned out from the pinpoint precision of my mouth to the broad shotgun array a few feet away, before losing all sense of rhythm and deforming into clusters of chaotic clouds.
At the end of 22nd, where the housing development started to turn back on itself, there was a clearing on the northern corner— something about how if the number of houses exceeds x, then the developer needs to build and maintain a small park, so the lot was left empty. The wild grass still had white tips, completely untouched until my footsteps broke their peace.
I could see the abandoned golf course from the lot. Well, the edge of it, around the tree line— you know. We drove by it whenever we went to the highway, and we had walked around the lonely concrete trails that lead from hole to hole. There were three parked cars on the shoulder of the spur that lead to its parking lot. The company that bought the land barricaded it years ago, but never did anything else with their purchase.
I had always meant to draw up a map of the golf course and blow out the proportions to become the world for a story I had thought of. When we had gone on our first walk around it, I had started piecing together the cities. There was a railroad track along the eastern side that would transport goods throughout the towns along the foothills of the impassable mountain range. There were rolling hills and vast lakes and small, dry patches of desert; ocean would hug the western coast.
The story was supposed to revolve around a woman making a dessert for some special occasion, how stressed she felt while making it. Maybe stress isn’t the right word; she would be excited to make the thing and for people to eat it, but she wanted it to be perfect. She’d walk around the floating flour specs of her kitchen and pour precise measurements of sugar into different measuring cups, some complicated fractions would stick out from the recipe that would need to be broken down and converted.
With every ingredient she’d add, there would be a cut away to another person who would be moving through their daily routine to gather, package, distribute, or sell the ingredient the woman just used. Their lives would be rough and stressful and tiresome. Then, it would jump back to the woman and her dessert.
I never wrote that story. I had thought about it, as I said, but I never wrote it. I knew that if I did write it, I’d show you, and you’d probably tell me it was weird. So, I’d save it on an external drive somewhere and always mean to come back to it and fix it, but be too afraid to read it again. Its 0s and 1s would sit on that disk undisturbed until the end of time.
Maybe I should have written it. Maybe you would have liked it. I don’t know.
The orange was dimming around the peaks of the Brothers and Mount Constance. The bones in my fingers were starting to ache. It’s weird how the cold pierces so deeply so suddenly. Small icy flakes shifted horizontally in the air carried by the soft northerly wind. I started to walk back to our house.
Your hatchback was in the driveway. I had forgotten. It had sat there for several months, and I had seen it there every day, but I had momentarily forgotten that you were gone.
This realization happens too often, I admit, but your death just hasn’t dug its roots deep enough. I’m afraid they never will, that I will keep forgetting and having to remember all over, and the gale of grief will consume me again.
I cried that day. I curled up in the front yard and hugged my knees into my trembling chest. The grass was cold and wet, slowly changing colors in the faint glow of the Morozov’s Christmas lights.