Sunday, February 01, 2015

Snow, Snot and Super Bowls

Is that a great title or WHAT? I mean, really... I almost wanted to change it to Snooper Bowls just for the sake of poetic silliness. But I didn't. Such restraint!

Oh, Boston. Why do you entertain me so?

The hiatus between snow storms will end tomorrow morning, according to the many over-excited meteorologists. The lines at the grocery stores, atrocious on any normal weekend, are amplified by the cataclysmic collision of the Patriots playing the Super Bowl and the storm panic. Shelves are empty; staff cannot keep up with restocking the various items New Englanders require in these circumstances: toilet paper, milk, eggs, avocados, beer, chocolate.

Here I sit, surrounded by piles of dirty clothes, strategizing my next attack on our building's laundry room. Will it be crazy because of the storm? There are only two washers and two dryers for a building of 15 units, about 60 people. Will it be easier once the game starts? I know it will be impossible after the snow; too many concrete stairs exposed to the weather for my limpy legs to handle.

I'm not attempting the world outside otherwise. I have a snotty, sinus-y cold. I have my medicine and plenty of tissues. The Guy Who Calls Me His Girlfriend* brought me guacamole and chips, and then ran out the door before my evil germs could invade his healthy self.

I had to cancel my one steady job, a two-year-old in Belmont (two unreliable bus rides and thus an hour and a half away) because I assumed the parents won't want a coughing, sneezing, green-snotted sitter in their home. I believe the little guy gave me this cold. He was coughing a bit last week and his nose was still crusty and red from constant wiping. I've been waking up (which means I slept at some point - that's nice to know) with my mouth open and dried out and my face just crammed with nastiness. I got up to eat something and take meds and wound up back in bed, curling up with tissues and making myself drink water now and then.

But it's so quiet.

Roommates are gone. The whole apartment is still and nearly silent. The cat sleeps on the big chair, radiator steam whistles and bangs here and there, humidifier gurgles. My fingers tap on the keyboard. I have cups of tea and oranges and guacamole. I have laundry to lug outside and down stairs and back again. I have an impending Super Bowl to watch, I guess.

I have time to think.

Please, God, don't let me think.

At least I like the snow. Without a car to dig out or a commute to worry about, snow becomes a beautiful marvel. I loved watching it fall during the last storm; first the innocent meandering flakes that seem to get distracted on their way down, catching upward gusts and collecting on sidewalks in a sheer, lacy layer. Then the slanting, heavy attack, pounding that first fragile layer and battling every available surface with seeming intentionality. The wind picking up, blowing a fierce wall of snow off of the tall drifts. It's impossible to tell how much has accumulated because it refuses to fall straight. Then the eventual calm... Every little twig holding up a slim pile. Sidewalks, stairs and streets completely buried. All the hard edges we construct, the steel and stone and gravel... all of it softened and encased and conquered by billions of intricate snowflakes.

And the quiet. Snow muffles the city. It stops the traffic and the trains, the frantic walking and shouting and coffee cup balancing, the birds, the cabs, the cash registers, the kitchens. No sirens. No planes passing overhead. The occasional plow comes through, but the snow is too deep for them to scrape against anything. They make this gentle, constant noise, a hushhhhhh.

Eventually people will venture out. Kids break out of their homes in bright snowsuits and throw themselves into the tallest drifts with squeals and giggles. College kids assemble layers of jeans and sweaters and sled down the hills on plastic trays and storage bin covers. Seasoned residents shovel at least the first layer off of their cars and stairs. Some people, like me, venture out simply to witness the transformation of the buried city. We struggle through thigh-high, sometimes waist-high snow just to experience it, just to look around and wonder at it. Everyone smiles as they pass, friendlier than usual, united by the frustration of the weather and a kind of relaxed resignation. Not much you can do in a storm like this. Just exist, witness, play, and head back inside to warm the hell up.

Then we all wait. We start to hear the scraping of plows against salted roads. Then the occasional siren. Then the slush, traffic slowly starting back up and carving into the slippery streets. People return to work, as people must. The piles become problems, shoulder high icebergs on every side of the intersections. Funny little paths appear along the areas we know are supposed to be sidewalks.

Life is almost normal out there, I'm told. When I went out yesterday, every street was cleared and most sidewalks were bared and salted. There were still massive, dirtying piles and slushy puddles making any kind of travel rather uncomfortable. Walking, driving, T-ing, bussing... the city is still putting itself back together and there is simply nowhere to PUT all of the snow. We're forced to stomp it down and press it into icy mush. I truly pity people with cars in a city where there are already too few parking spaces. And the snow isn't pretty anymore. It's dimpled and dirty, lumpy and inconvenient.

So I look forward to this next storm. I can't really say that aloud because I think I'd get punched in the face. But I like these moments of suspension from real life. Maybe I like that everyone, the entire population, is forced to join me in the pursuit of nothing. Maybe I'm jerk that way. Or just increasingly lonely and jealous of functional society, more sensitive to a feeling of exclusion.

Can I learn to enjoy the quiet?

I think it's a good sign that I'm writing a bit, but I'm always worried that I'll wind up exposing something... too fragile, I guess? Something that I can never hide completely after exposing it to the air. I have this sense that I'm looking out over my thoughts and witnessing them, fascinated as I am with the snowstorm. But if I voyage out into them I will either wind up smothered completely or sullying something that cannot ever be made pure again. And then what? Is it wise to navigate any of it while I'm completely on my own?

For now, I have cold meds and tea. I have laundry. I have the tangible, physical world to deal with. I will surely have hollering neighbors at some point tonight as the game gets underway, and I'll be grateful for my seclusion.


*Current Manboy, in constant danger of being fired. Long, intensely boring story.

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