I thought that it was all over between you and me. I had been blinded, for a moment, by the sudden brightness of the morning sky, and lately there has been that high, skipping note in the air that makes us all lift our heads to breathe a little deeper. Now I realise that I was a fool. You left, but you came back; that long glance over a half-turned shoulder in the doorway.
In England you would visit just a handful of times in the damp gloom of winter. How could I have known then that later you would become such a big part of my life? That you would be such a close companion for half of all my days. Half my days – six months of every year. Long enough to get to know you well: to know you in all your ways and moods.
At first it’s always so exciting to see you. Those first, fat flakes circling gracefully, settling a soft, pristine blanket that covers and uncovers magical memories, both the real and the wished-for: holiday excitement, family gatherings. How the heart lifts in those early days, how romantic it seems to watch you dancing there against the dark sky, sitting toasting by the fireside glow of all those pasts and futures. How comforting it is to see soft pillows of fresh snow plumping up in the branches of every tree and turning hard city edges into sensuous contours.
In the beginning you are nurturing and soft. The excitement of the child in all of us rises quickly in those first weeks. Who cannot resist scuffing up the drifts of white freshness and playing out until cheeks burn and fingers tingle? Who can forget the exhilaration and shock of your touch skittering down the spine in the frenzy of a snowball war? Who has never lifted their face to your kisses to taste your burning silence on their tongue?
There are times, though, when you are callous and cruel. There are days when you are hard and spiteful; slicing into lungs, stinging eyes and inflicting sharp pain through brittle fingers and toes. You are hard-packed beneath our squealing shoes, and our footsteps creak, crunch and cry out into the space that you have left in sound. We clamber over new, shifting, treacherous terrain just to walk the ordinary little ways that we must step to go about our lives. We slip and slide and fall and curse the bitter air. I hate you then. Really.
And, oh, the lies! The menacing, black, oily, icy pools that lurk and masquerade as solid ground until the moment that I step onto the gritty surface to feel it yawn and yield. How I curse you as I plunge ankle-deep into the freezing murk. How often have you betrayed me? Lying hidden as hard, black, uneven, polished ice beneath a soft blush of fresh snow. There is no chance of salvation. By the time I understand your deceit, I am already wholly off the ground, hanging in horror, waiting to meet the hard earth with hand or arm or knee or spine.
I am tired of this, Snow. I am tired of kicking through slush that has been blackened by the city’s breath. I am tired of skirting the uncertain edges of evil pools of icy murk. At times like these it is hard to remember the enthralling wonder that stops my breath as I turn to catch the afternoon sun glinting through infinitesimally tiny shards of ice suspended in the glittering air. It’s hard to think of your beauty again.
So. You can leave now. I know it’s not easy, but it is time. No, do not look back. Sure, you can leave me to deal with the vile and hideous melt that follows in your wake. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright.
Until next time.