White (repeat)

By Jennifer Bowen Hicks

December 26, 2016

White (repeat)

We no longer remember the sound of birdsong or the feel of dry pavement beneath our feet, but we walk to school anyway because school is the place we're meant to walk to on Tuesday mornings. Temperatures register -23 below zero if you don’t count the wind chill, and I always count the wind chill.

He’s cold.

He’s quiet.

His head is down.

He replies to my questions with a shrug or a grunt, tucks his chin inside his coat.

Just before we cross Luther Street, he looks up at me. I know this look. I remember it from when he was younger, when he drove the toy car at Como Town, age four, and he touched his foot to the pedal and—like magic—it moved.

He gawks at me. He says, "Whoa."

And then, "Holy crap, Mom. Your hair."

I look down and my hair is no longer brown, but crystallized white, every visible inch. His black stocking cap is turning white with the speed of a stop motion video. Each exhale is a magic trick, our inside joke. The intimacy of an autopsy without all the dying.

Did we ever truly believe it before seeing it frozen across our bodies? The bitter chill makes pretty proof: we live, we breathe.


Photo "Frosted Thistle" provided by Irenicrhonda, via Flickr.com creative commons license.

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