Give Me the Sweet, Dark Cold

There was a degree of elation I allowed myself to feel, for a day or two. As I streamed in and out of traffic amid the shining, new purposeful autos I felt a part of the stream of life again. I was moving. It wasn’t hard to imagine doing this again and again and again and resolving not to complain about traffic, ever. These people around me, they are nice people. They’re busy going to and coming from, they’re involved. They matter.

My Jeep doesn’t have windows. Or doors. And at any other time in my life it would be ludicrous and even painful to drive around after dark at 65 mph in 48-degree weather, but not now. I felt the cold and if felt good. It meant that I was moving, my Jeep was taking me somewhere important and I was a part of the stream of life. Never mind the numb fingers. Heck, never mind the numb legs — all that cold was proof that I did it.

And did it I did, for four days. I enjoyed over thirty miles of brisk, bracing commute –each way — along the same, well traveled path that had conveyed me to my previous place of employ. I relished every turn. As I moved through the backcountry I realized that I didn’t even know what street I was on. It was too dark to see anything, but I felt it. Some submerged autopilot had taken over and was guiding me along dark paths that I hadn’t traveled in almost two years. If the trip was cold and windy and dark, it was also moist and mysterious and exciting. Familiar fragrances enveloped the blackness, creating olfactory signposts: freshly cut grass along the median of the highway, semi-putrid smells of brackish backwater, deep aromatic fragrances of well-soaked foliage along the lakefront, the sweet perfume of refried beans wafting out of a neighborhood of tidy suburban homes. Even without the beans, it was delicious and comforting. And black. And cold.

But the real chill came the next day, at noon, when I learned that the schedule was thinning out fast and that my services wouldn’t be required again until January or even February. And as I turned this bit of news over in my mind, methodically making the turns and stops along my backcountry path, the warm winter sun didn’t feel quite as warm. The cars around me were jockeying for position and I was in no mood to keep up with them. In fact, I felt a distinct longing for a very dark, cold, windy drive.


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