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I am Walking Home


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I turn forward again and continue home. The snow is so high—nearly two feet in some places—that I hop in order to land in the footprints of yesterday. With each day the journey is easier, for my legs grow taller and my feet smaller with every night. The first day after the snow fell I had to make this path. It was bitterly cold, my speed slothful. That day it took me nearly two hours to get home. I remember the next day, too: the air was even colder than the day before, and each breath was like swallowing pins. My feet had not shrunk at all; they perfectly fit in the holes made the day before. But after the weekend my feet had become two sizes too small for the footprints. Walking was faster that day, though I wouldn’t have minded a slow pace; the air was much warmer. So warm, in fact, that the icicles missed that dapper gentleman of the winter, Mr. Jack Frost. They wept for him, and I think that I might have, too.

He must have heard our lamentations, for today I know my bones are ice. It starts in my legs and first spreads to my feet and toes, which feel like they are made of freezer-burnt ice cream. The cold finds its way into my blood, icing my guts and my heart, which tries its darnedest to heat my core. Oh, but the heart only circulates the cold faster, carrying it through my veins and arteries and capillaries until all of my body is so chilled that even my breath freezes the air around me. My exhalations escape and hope to enter others to spread the contagion. But they disperse and become invisible, going nowhere and everywhere. There are times when I do not know whether I want to succumb to the frost or to have the nurturing warmth stay.

Maman has always bundled me whenever the mercury in the thermometer ever even flirted with fifty degrees; she’d have me wear so many layers of clothing that I’d be as puffy and as bloated as a larva living in the richest compost pile that ever was. She disliked my play; she thought that the icicles would fall on me. Like daggers from nervous, slippery fingers, the transparent weapons would descend from our eaves entering my naivety, effectively spreading their gelid disease. And so, she’d allow me outside for only an hour before she’d call me in, twittering about my catching cold and getting the shivers. Then I would slowly remove my suit of motherly armor and stand dripping the snow soldiers who had tried to invade Maman’s fortress. It is thus that I exist, completely protected while under her gaze. For, she will never want to see it—see the ice crystals, the perfectly frigid shards, move from the wonderland that is the outside world to the warm little cavern that houses my heart. She doesn’t have it in her to see the pure white frost cover my gushy, red interior. The act of thinking of my spunky little life force evolving into a Plutonian rock—so scarred and bitten by frost that it is unrecognizable—is a maternal sin too dangerous to accept.

In the path ahead, I see the bus slowing at the sight of the stop sign in front of me. The people who sit at their wheels all revive and spur into action. They honk, and they buzz, as a hornet’s nest prodded by a stick, all to squeeze past the beast. All around, the regal pines bristle their evergreen needles as one image flashes in my mind. I plunge my hand into the frozen sea that has me surrounded, and the iced surface shatters to reveal a treasure trove of ammunition in the raw underneath.

As I pack the snow, I can see his face. It’s all the words he throws away without a thought—all the ugly words that should never be said. I lift my head, and my vision doubles: He’s loud and obnoxiously prodding and pushing, demanding secrets to be told. The ugly face trespasses, reeking of ignorance and prejudice directed at me. Oh, and all I can ever do is watch in horror. But he is also there, no, over there, opening and closing his mouth at his friend behind the glass. They mouth insidious plans and horrendous, venomous words. This time, it is young boy who cries stoically and “ignores” them as he’s been told, focusing all of his attention at the cold outside.

I remember my weapon. It is heavy in my hand and is ready for combat. I, too, am ready. My lungs expand with the deepest of breaths, and I lunge forward. Light on my feet, I dance to the stop sign and hug its post with my free hand. I lean out, getting the optimal view of my target. My long legs find a steady spot, my arm takes aim, my muscles tighten, my eyes narrow, my fingers clench…

And the bus turns its corner.

I relax, and my breath decorates the air with a frosty mist. I examine my wintry grenade. The sparkly orb is almost indistinguishable from my bloodless hand. My fingers give up their determination, and the ball falls unromantically to the ground.

The bus is far down the street, now, I know. A car idles next to my figure, a mother who knew my mother’s name at one time peers, concerned, out of her passenger window. Her dark eyebrows gather and form a peak on her forehead, offering me the shelter I don’t need. I smile and wave as a thank you and as a plea for her to leave. She sits forward again and gives me a sidelong look of worry. Then she drives away.

The exhaust from her van climbs into my nostrils and chokes me, and I cough weakly. But the woman didn’t leave. She clucks her tongue as I try to remember her name or to whom she is related. Her face contorts with every click-clock of her tongue slapping the underside of her mouth. She stands with her hips thrust forward and her hands at her waist. She glows in Technicolor.

It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know my mother’s name anymore. I know she doesn’t know me, either. There was a life when I played with her kid, a life when he was invited to a party, a life when she drove me home. I am different! I’ve changed! Why can’t you see that just because you are still a mother doesn’t mean that I am still a child? But still, she looks at me and thinks that she can see all the people I could have been. They dance behind her eyes, and I see them; I squint, letting curiosity overcome anger, and step closer. A perfect doll of porcelain, all dewy-eyed and rosy-cheeked, spins around and around in the pupils of obsidian. The girl never stops to wonder at me. She keeps mindlessly twirling, only seeing the blurred faces of all her admirers and companions as she enjoys herself. It’s hypnotic and insane and disgusting simultaneously. I emerge from the fantasy, her fantasy of someone she doesn’t even know, and neither do I.

I see her among her friends: ‘She had so much potential,’ she’ll rave, yet once further evidence is divulged, she’ll proclaim that she ‘knew it all along.’ She knew it, as I laughed and smiled, playing with dolls. She knew it, as she gossiped with Maman, as she smiled in turn. She knew it all along. She pities me for not matching her psychotic delusions. Chills that even the cold could not give to me climb down my spine. I blow her away with one gust from my lungs. She fades into my mist, shimmering away as if she was really, truly just a mirage.

I survey my location to gauge my progress and check my wrist for the time. The icy air slaps me across the face, rouging my cheeks. I blink hard and continue forward, again. My feet still meet this broken path, as they will tomorrow and have for weeks now. The seemingly unrelenting white will yield to brown, to green, to red, then to white again, and I will walk this path home. Walking towards home, which is, by design, a reservation, and, regardless of its impracticality, its unreality, I seek it every day.

It takes so long to walk home.

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I am Walking Home