The thermostat is set to 65 degrees in my dorm room, and it still feels like a sauna. I feel the weight of death-by-heat-exhaustion crushing me with unbearable weight. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps a little. But it never ends. The vent continues to blow hot, dry air into my room no matter what I do. I want to peel off my parched skin, I want to be free of this incessant, loud, annoying white-noise, and I want to feel like (for once) I’m not being suffocated by recycled carbon dioxide.
I’m reminded now of a science lesson given to me by the boyfriend my mom had after my dad died. In the winter he’d always say, “heat rises.” Which is completely accurate. Hot air does rise. This is the reason that I had thought that living on the top floor of my residence hall would be a good idea—we’d be nice and toasty in the cold, Indiana winter. I’m starting to think (if given the option of living on the third floor again) that I’d rather shove a power tool in my eye. Now I’m realizing that he totally always just used that line as an excuse for why we couldn’t turn anything but the floorboard heaters on in the car.
The moment it’s appropriately close enough to class time for me to leave this hellish hall, I do. The outside air is so bitterly cold that my cheeks instantly hurt and I can feel my face numbing, but I welcome it. I don’t bother to tense my shoulders, or prepare myself for the shivering that’s supposed to come, or even wrap my father’s old coat around me a little tighter. I just walk, coat billowing in the breeze and (newly-short) hair whipping around my face, maybe like one of those magazine models that stand by a pier (or something).
I’m still walking, but I imagine that, if it were socially acceptable to lie on the ground as a nearly-nineteen-year-old college student, I’d be lying on that bed of snow. I’d ignore the world, I’d ignore my thoughts and my responsibilities, and I’d let the cold do its job. I’d be peaceful. The Lord knows these past few days have been less than ideal, but I let myself believe that this cold is exactly what I need. I inhale deeply and feel my lungs turn to ice, every inch of warmth leaving my body until I feel normal again, until I can breathe again. There’s no heat, only numbness, making me pure.
My thoughts untangle, my pain is eased, and every ounce of tension is gone.
I swear in that moment, I heard God, like He reached into my body and pulled out everything that had been weighing me down. He held my burdens there in His hands, just like He’s done so many times before, and I felt loved and wanted and cherished.
My lips are chapped, icy, probably blue, perfect. My hands are talons, frozen in place, and there are pinpricks of pain in my legs as the cold soaks deeper, down into my bones. At some point, I can’t feel anything, nothing but peace.
I wonder why we hate the cold so much, why people turn their faces away. I wonder why our bodies react so dramatically to the cold, why shivering and tension help us to fight it away… Why would anyone want to fight this away?
Yet, later I’ll think of how I know that there will be days when I will pop my collar to block my neck from the wind, or I’ll put on my gloves, or breathe warmth into the scarf that covers my face from the snow, but now that rationality doesn’t find me. I want to spend an eternity here, peaceful and ice-afflicted.
My mind wanders in this harmonious, likely dopamine-induced, God-given high I feel, and I think of Robert Frost and how he must have felt when he wrote “Fire and Ice.”
“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice.”
This is his poem in its entirety. I put in in paragraph from for convenience, but I also think it’s more easily comprehended this way (not to say that I know better than The Robert Frost, just that this way better served my purposes). I understand the meaning of the poem, I get the nuances and blah, blah, blah. Fire is desire and Ice is hate… but what if he was wrong? To me fire seems like, you know, (cough, cough) Hell. And if that’s so, then the opposite of fire (Hell) is ice (Heaven). So maybe there is a real and warranted feeling of peace to be felt in the cold.
We spend our lives making money, growing old and rich enough to merit a permanent move down South, but as I walk, turning blue, staring up at the grey sky, I feel that I’ve never seen anything more beautiful.
the moment ends
with a swift step indoors.