By: Matt Gordon
There is nothing left untouched by minus 30 degree something temperatures. I realize this on my morning walk from car to work as the chill finds passage to my feet and then wraps tightly around the skin of my uselessly bundled legs. By the time I reach the door, my bones creak with frostbite . . . though, despite its name, it feels much more like a gnawing. Frostgnaw.
Worse than the bodily effects—do you know how long it takes me to go to the bathroom with all these layers?—are the mental ones. Yes, the mind is affected. This is evident mostly by other people and the things their brains cause their mouths to say.
“I don’t mind it being this cold as long as there is snow.”
You lie, liar. What does that even mean? All the snow is the calling card of the deathly cold, like a serial killer who leaves a strand of hair or creepy note behind at the crime scene to taunt flummoxed detectives. You don’t mean what you are saying. I know this because I’ve said it too. Somehow it makes you feel hopeful or poetic even. But deep down you know that the snow and ice makes this no better, only colder and deadlier. My theory is that this sentiment is the beginning of the evil cold’s recruitment of you. You begin to say nonsense like this. Then you shed some layers and say other gobbledygook like, “It’s really not that bad” or “It is 0 out here and actually feels warm now compared to how it’s been, you know?” No, I don’t know. And neither do you. The cold is somehow vying for your mind, and next it will take you soul and body. You’ll be one of those lunatics doing a polar plunge or, even worse, some too-far-gone fool out for a jog. You’ve seen them, right? People out exercising, snot-faced, in this ghastly wasteland. There is no more hope for them—they’ve entered the Winterlands from which no man returns.
“I’d rather have this than live in a place like Florida. There’s just something about the seasons, you know?”
There’s just something about a calendar too. On a calendar, you have pictures better than my eye has ever first handedly beheld of summer fields. In October, the leaves are falling, falling down, falling, falling all around. In December you’ll have a snowy glen. Icicles in January. April will see flowers sprouting forth, and May will feature greens hovered over by hummingbirds. A good calendar will do. One I glance at through the window from the porch of my beach bungalow. I can enjoy winter from the comfort of my own swimsuit. The four seasons are beautiful. But so are sharks or lightning or the depths of caves. Doesn’t mean we cuddle up to them or wrap ourselves in foil and stand on a roof for a closer look or spelunk for Pete’s sake. No, a picture will do. An occasional documentary is fine. Reality is not just overrated—it is downright dangerous.
“It’s just so still and calm.”
So is death. Let’s move along.
“I like to just cozy up when it is like this.”
How? How exactly do you do such a thing? I have six pairs of socks on as I type. My feet are making physical, flammable contact with a space heater. And still I shudder. Cozy? Cozy!? What are you wearing? Also what is the expiration date on “cozy”? When I think of cozy, it is contained to about two hours. Maybe an evening. Yes, you turn on some dopey Hallmark movie; you sip some warm drink that isn’t really even good but you pretend it is because it makes you feel more like a character in some dopey Hallmark movie. Maybe you read some book or wear some flannel. You might even start a fire, as if anyone truly enjoys that—marching in and out for wood, getting splinters, feeling like a chump when you have to put yet another paperback under it to get it to light because you ran out of proper kindling trying, unsuccessfully for an hour, to get it to light. But you do all this and for a couple hours you have all the feels. After that, it becomes a sort of sickness. You are trapped indoors. Caged. Possibly forever. No complex Hallmark movie plot in which the two most good-looking characters end up overcoming minor communication issues to end up together can possibly overcome the overwhelming sense of cabin fever. Yes, this sort of cold is a battle of the mind. And I’ve made mine decidedly up to wage war against it. To find a bungalow, and to find it fast. In fact, I’m well on my way: I’ve already ordered the calendar. The delivery service tells me it will be here just as soon as the cold subsides and the roads are cleared. Once it finally arrives, I will flip it to July and let the waves take me away, mind finally at ease, far from the unrelenting frozen grip of all things frostgnaw.