Trudging out to the ice, hearing the soft styrofoam crunch of days-old snow underfoot, followed by the swish-swish of the brush against the (soft as silk silica) of feathery overnight snow and kneeling at the edge while stars spin in rhythm to a galactic beat in the dark blue sky overhead, I can only think of what lies beneath the ice, what I have lost.
The first time anyone I knew died was just during my first year of college. The news of the death was sudden, violent, like that terrifying moment in a car accident where the truth becomes irreversible. you are going to spin out of control at best, at worst you’re going to hit a wall, a very bad thing is happening, and your world is gone.
I wasn’t stoic about it, either, not when I heard the news that summer afternoon, collapsed on the floor, holding the landline phone in my hand as I howled and sobbed my denial. I didn’t even have the courtesy of waiting for the person on the other end of the line to hang up.
Each loss of life since has been the same, no matter what my connection to the person, thin and tenuous like the layers of ice beneath me now, or as thick as an oak’s roots plunging beneath the soil and grass. There’s no dignity in my grief, no composure, just a howl of maddened pain and denial and sadness beyond proper description.
My world is small. Though I hate for various reasons to use the word “tribe,” the circle many might think of as my “tribe” is small, and changing. This is my fault. I fail at several things as a human being, small talk, small courtesies like thank you letters and gifts of holiday, or knowing what to say when someone else is hurting, or what not to say, when to just shut up, and listen. I try, but I don’t know how to even leave my house without being terrified of the world outside, much less how to cross the gap between me and the larger world, and keep myself from drifting away.
Admitting this is madness, like sitting on the ice in the middle of a freezing cold night, waiting for the water below to return to me something I lost long ago. The best thing I can do then, is get up, trudge back across the ice, and head towards the warmth and the light of my house in this little life I live. It’s not enough to counter all the loss, all the missteps, but it is what I can do. In some small way, I hope it serves as thanks, though thanks of this type I’m sure is as useful as being offered a painted skeleton of a dead cat by a homeless madwoman, as a birthday present.
As the screen door creaks and slams shut behind me, my fingers stinging from the shock of the warmth of the digital world that fills my life, my little house, I’m grateful to stop thinking about the ice, even if for a moment or two.