Sunday, October 4, 2009

Portfolio Piece: Snow Angels

The snow was falling so fast that by the time she reached the coffee shop and looked back, she could no longer see the footprints that got her to the door. She had only walked five blocks from her house but her limbs were numb. She was careful to open the door so that the wind would not startle the guests already inside. It should not have been a surprise that other than Kate’s waiting friend, and the few older men at the bar; there was only one other table.

It had been snowing since midafternoon and the snow had put a near stop to all city movement and Friday night activities. Kate had come home from work only an hour before and had hoped to snuggle up on the couch with her boyfriend. He was home first and was already waiting there with pizza. But as they turned on the first movie, her phone rang. It was one of Kate’s good friends and she was crying. She needed to meet and talk. The moment Kate heard the tears she slipped off the couch and started looking for jeans to pull on. She promised to meet Tasha in an hour at the coffee shop turned wine bar up the street.

The café was dimly lit but small enough that it only took her a moment to see everyone in the café and spot her friend sitting at a nearby table. Tasha was facing Kate on a bench against the wall. She was wearing a knit scarf wrapped tightly about her shoulders and was holding a mug close to her face with both hands. Kate began taking off her layers as she approached the table and scooted into a wooden chair facing away from the door. The waitress was to the table by the time Kate had her things situated around her. She blew into her hands as the waitress dropped a small menu.
“What would you like sweetie?” Kate looked at Tasha and squished up her face in decision.
“Whatever she is having. That looks warm.” She answered handing the menu back to the waitress without looking at it. The waitress nodded and went back to the counter.
“What did I just order?” Kate asked. Tasha slid the mug across the table. Kate sipped. “Hot and not too strong, perfect.” She said as she handed the mug back and prepared to turn the conversation. “So, how are you?”

At the question, Tasha’s eyes became glassy and she pulled her hands off the table and into her lap. Her shoulders turned in and she looked as though she was experiencing a physical pain. “I have been better. It just took me by surprise. I feel like such a fool. I was expecting an engagement soon and now it’s just done. I’m alone.” Her words stopped abruptly. She had said these words before but every now and then she spoke them as though the pain today was as sharp as the pain when it happened, four months ago. Kate nodded in understanding and Tasha pushed the idea of crying out of her head. Kate’s mug was just then dropped to the table.

“You spend that much time with somebody, building a life, a future, and when it’s done, you’re just supposed to move on and start again? I do not know how anybody does it. And the worst part is that when it happened, everybody wanted to talk, everybody wanted to offer me a shoulder but now it’s been four months and nobody wants to hear it anymore.” She paused to breathe, as she had not until this moment. “So thank you for being here. I know what it was for you to come out. I just needed to say this. I was so unprepared. I have watched too many romantic comedies. I thought I found him, my Soul Mate. I completely misunderstood the term.”

Kate smiled sadly at her friend, “You are right in every way. I do not know how people move on either. It’s hard, but you are doing it. I think that word is overused. Soul Mate.” Kate repeated the word as though it tasted bitter. “It sets us all up for failure. Are we really supposed to believe that there is only one person in the world for us and when we find that person we will just know and then like magic everything is solved.”

“Exactly!” Tasha exclaimed, smiling for the first time that night. “I have been thinking about this. A lot. Probably too much, and I have decided that I am ok with the word but not within the context of how most people use it.” Kate leaned in closer and rested her chin on her left hand waiting for Tasha’s epiphany to be shared.

“What if your soul mate is a person put on the earth to change your life, but what if you don’t ever meet that person. Maybe that part does not matter. Maybe the only thing that matters is that you and this person both exist to create a balance in the universe. That can happen without each person knowing, right?”

“Well I think I follow you. So you are saying that you close a metaphorical door in your own life and that person is there to open your metaphorical window and maybe neither of you ever know it?”

“Yes. And the best part about this is that it takes all of the pressure off of me. I do not need to search for a soul mate. Instead, I can just go on a date if I feel like having a nice meal and not paying.” Both girls laughed as the waitress came back around for another drink order.

Kate did not realize how much time had gone by until her cell phone rang. It was Ben wondering where she was. The snow was still heavy and he did not want her walking by herself. She assured him that she would be fine and said that she would be on her way home in five minutes. She said that she would call him during her walk so that he would not worry.

As Kate wrapped herself back up in layers she noticed that all of the people who were at the cafe when she arrived were still in their respective seats. Tasha and Kate hugged goodbye outside of the door as they had opposite walks home. The wind was blowing so hard and the snow so heavy that Kate not only forgot to call Ben but also had she remembered, would have chosen to keep both hands dug inside her pockets. The walk was slow and seemed longer than when she walked to the café.
The roads were quiet and peaceful. Not a single car passed Kate on what is normally a moderately busy road. The branches on all of the trees hung low with fresh ice and snow. She could almost forget the bitter cold for a moment to enjoy the beauty of a quiet city covered in snow.

When she reached her door she felt a pit in her stomach and she remembered that Ben was waiting for her call. She stepped to the door and fished out her keys. She had thick woolen mittens that really impeded on getting the key inside the lock and pushing the door open. When she finally got the door open, she noticed Ben right on the other side of the door. He was sitting in a blue chair and was still staring at the television. His stillness was a clear sign that he was upset. Kate again took off her now wet layers and spread them through the hallways before walking over to his chair or saying anything.

“I’m home.” She bent over from behind the chair and kissed his forehead. He reached up and pulled her right hand so that she would step to the front of the chair.
“I was worried about you. I called. I sat at home all night. I know your friend needed you but I needed you too. I try to be understanding and a good boyfriend to you but sometimes you make it difficult. We live together and we do not see each other enough. We work too much and tonight when the whole city is inside, it’s my girl who has to go out.”

Kate had pulled her hand away from him and stepped back from him. It hurt to hear him say this and she was not sure if she should be mad at him or herself. She did just jump up the moment the phone rang without thinking about how Ben would feel. But she was just trying to be a good friend and he should understand. She felt two sides pulling at her and she did not know how to respond so she just bit her bottom lip and stared back at him.

“Besides,” He said after an extended silence. “They have been broken up for four months. She should be over it by now.” Ben said it casually as though his anger with Kate had already faded. Kate was not sure if it was just the words or if it was more, but something inside her flipped and she became very upset. She felt her face get very warm and the room felt small. She needed to breath. She needed to step outside. She grabbed her boots and coat off the floor and before Ben could react, Kate was up and heading out the door again.
“Kate, don’t go out there!”
“I just need to go out for a moment, I will be back in a few minutes. What you said really bothered me and before I explain it, I want to breath.” Ben put his arms up in submission and like that the door closed behind Kate.”

The cold air did help. The air was so cold that she no longer wanted to cry. She just wanted to walk fast. She did want the cold to make her feel numb once more. She turned up the street and started walking the main street back toward the café. She was once again content with the beauty of the city in the storm and slowed her pace to watch her surroundings. She could vaguely see a person walking toward her. The person was about three blocks away and taking advantage of the empty roads by walking down the middle of them. This made her smile. The person weaved from one side to the other telling Kate that the person was either drunk or just having fun. She chose to think that the person was just playing with the city. Making a game of the cold walk home.

It seemed to be over before she knew that it happened. A car took a right hand turn in front of Kate forcing her to jump back. She only noticed the car because she had her head turned watching the zigzag walker. The car was driving much too fast for the snowstorm and turned into the wrong lane. Kate was still catching her breath from her own jump back when she saw the car hit the pedestrian. She watched his body fly into the air, his limbs flailing like a rag doll. And like a lightning storm, only remembered hearing the crack after his body came down and landed in a pile of snow on the side of the road.

The car backed up and the wheels screeched. The car shifted into drive and was gone before she could take a step. With the car gone, the streets were again empty. Kate’s legs were frozen and now, she really could not breath. The only thing she could manage to do was to start screaming, “Help! Help!”
It did not take long for a middle-aged couple in their pajamas to run down their front steps. They were a few houses from where Kate stood and they were between her and the victim. She pointed and the couple quickly saw the blood, the tire tracks, and then the person. “I’m a doctor. Call 9-1-1!” The older woman shouted as her and her husband dashed down the street. Without taking a step Kate pulled the phone out of her pocket and although she knows she gave all of the information that the operator wanted, Kate does not know what words she spoke. It was not real, only it was. It was too real. It was a blur. She stayed on the phone long enough to know that help was on the way. She watched the couple crouch beside the victim. The husband looked up at the sky and shouted, “He’s breathing!”

“Help is on the way!” Kate shouted back and as she did she could hear the ambulance in the distance. Not knowing what other assistance she could provide and starting to feel as though she could move again, Kate ran home.

She took her mittens off before she ever got to the door so that her key would be ready. She wanted to be inside as quickly as possible. She wanted to apologize to Ben. She wanted him to hold her and tell her that this was a bad dream. She got inside to find herself in darkness. Ben had gone to bed. Kate felt depleted and as she climbed the stairs she took off every article of clothing. Her body began to tingle as it warmed and when she reached their bedroom door, she was naked. She opened the door so tenderly and with just enough light from the window could see Ben sleeping. He was on his side, facing her pillow with his hand stretched across, holding nothing. She smiled at him as she lifted the blankets. Ben raised his hand to allow her room. She took her spot and stretched her legs out. It was then she noticed that her body was trembling. Not from the cold but from fear.
“I am sorry my love.” Ben whispered. “I love you so very much.”
“I love you too.” Kate said and took a long deep breath in and out.

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