Copyright 2012 by
She used to love snow.
She’d always associated it with purity, with the icy cold starkness of reality. She liked reality. Reality had plopped her down in a nice small family, with a brother she adored, and parents who were caring and nurturing.
Reality had been good to her, especially in those areas that were a game of chance, like family.
Snow was soft, yet startling. It was equally as pretty when it fell from the heavens, as when it settled on the ground like an ice blue blanket.
Lately, she’d dreamed of snow. A lot. She couldn’t remember a single dream about snow before her brother died in a freak skiing accident. Before that, her dreams were of the garden variety nature. She even had some tawdry dreams about muscular Ken down the block. She remembered watching him wash his car one Saturday afternoon. His movements graceful yet languid in the warm Oregon sun. His shirt off, his longish mop of blonde hair needing constant attention, as he reflexively kept brushing it out of his eyes. His jeans fit like a glove. She imagined what was inside that glove.
She was shocked to find herself behind her locked bedroom door, moments later, masturbating furiously to his image.
She wrote in her diary that night that it was the first time she felt in love. That was ten years ago. That was the last time she had touched herself.
Her dad had retreated from many things after his only son died suddenly on the breathtakingly beautiful, slippery white slopes of the great Siskiyou Mountain range near the California border. One of the many things he retreated from was life itself, as he slipped slowly into a world where thoughtful reflection, normally a milieu in which he thrived, now harbored only painful memories, and hence his flight from that most instinctive of human endeavors, of remembering.
He died alone. Not literally. His wife Emma and loving daughter Judy did their best to care for him in his last few years, in an ultimately fruitless gesture of loyalty, love and suddenly unrequited kindness. In the final months, he did not know who they were, or even if they were present. His communication consisted of incoherent ranting, raving, crying or wailing. Drugs contributed to some of that, yet Judy knew somehow that once her father’s adored son had moved on, he’d felt it was his duty as the boy’s father to follow him, to protect him, even given the painful irony of not having been able to do so when he was alive.
Judy was ambivalent about the raw, unfiltered front row seat she’d occupied as her father died right before her very eyes. Her feelings of helplessness would sometimes prove overwhelming. She tried her best to not have a breakdown in front of her mother, who was going through her own frightening version of emotional hell.
She was grateful, in an abstract way, when her father finally died. He would definitely be going somewhere, anywhere that had to better then the prison cell of a nursing home he’d inhabited, unknowingly, the last few years of his life.
As Judy then turned her full attention to her mother, more than ever in need of moral support and almost every day succor from her remaining child, she was aware that by doing so, she was closing, if not locking, the door to her own pain and frustration at deaths’ second visit to her front stoop.
Her mom quickly began to wonder aloud why she hadn’t been called to meet her own maker, often telling Judy how much she was looking forward now, to “moving on”.
Judy again felt put in a tenuous, unhealthy position. She’d done okay the first time, remaining as upbeat as she could while her dying father babbled on in the unintelligible patois of the mad.
But now, with her forces of empathy and support at low ebb, her normally resilient troops depleted and exhausted, she felt she was letting her mother down, somehow. From her father’s bedside, to her mother’s upright left side, she felt the position she was in to be oddly, eerily, and ultimately tragically familiar. Burying a parent is something many children do twice. Judy wondered how they did it without going absolutely crazy.
Nowadays, Judy lives near her mom, whose wish to follow her husband has thus far not been granted. Judy fills her life with visits to her mom, and volunteering to help local autistic children acquire the ability to learn, and keeping her journal, now in its 4th volume, updated with her thoughts, feelings, and pictures of her cat.
She needs no money. Her dad had left her and her mom enough to live on, and until she needed money for survival, she felt very nicely about herself. She was performing her Oregon version of Mother Teresa.
One day, amidst a heavy Oregon downpour, she immersed herself in something she’d been telling herself she needed to do. To revisit volumes 1-3 of her diary. It was the only true barometer that could possibly tell her if she’d grown into a woman from the insecure young girl unafraid to make eye contact with adults. She felt no shame that her one arbiter, the only reliable source to chart her life, was an inanimate object, and not another person. Many people had neither.
So, she pulled her favorite rocking chair over by the westward facing window, comforted by the relentless pelting of raindrops on the glass, and knowing that each time she looked out, the Pacific Ocean would still be there.
It was lunchtime on a non-descript Wednesday, but she wasn’t hungry. Feeling almost brazen, she poured herself a glass of red wine and settled in for a little stroll down memory lane.
It would prove to be a reading experience that would fuel a sudden escalation from wine to vodka. And the equally necessary retrieval of her tissue box from her bedside table.
She sat stunned, reading and rereading the passage from her 18th birthday.
“I am very unhappy about my appearance at this point in my life. If you saw my pic you would likely wish that you had not, because I am not physically attractive in the least, I promise.”
Approaching her 40th birthday, she had begun to see the more pernicious ravages that time and gravity could bring on a woman’s body. But even given that, she was still relatively easy on the eyes, turned the occasional head, and heard the sporadic construction site wolf whistle on her weekly passage by the new library being built downtown on her way to the Autistic Center. She certainly wasn’t Jennifer Lopez; but she wasn’t George Lopez, either.
And she wondered who she was talking to back then. Her oddly worded prose was as if she was having a conversation with someone.
Why did she feel so badly about her looks as a young girl? The next page of that journal had a picture of her standing with her mother. They looked very much alike. Not stunning, maybe not even reaching the ‘attractive’ level, but ‘fetching’ might do them justice. At worst, they were non-descript. Where did the warning tone of her written entry emanate from?
The “I promise” intrigued her. Was she trying to ward off a potential suitor? To assure this mysterious ‘him’ that she would disappoint, hoping her absolute assuredness in her unattractiveness would somehow keep her from having to prove it?
She got up from her chair, set her martini glass down, and walked into the bathroom. She stood for a long time, staring at herself. Not in a mocking way, or even judgmental. She was curious. Did any of those sentiments of 22 years ago remain?
When she saw a tear appear to balance almost imperceptibly on her lower left eyelash, then latch onto her cheek and begin its southern journey to wherever languid tears traveled, she realized she harbored within her the very poison that is self hatred.
Not bothering to halt prematurely the tears’ slow roll down her cheek, she went back and built herself another drink.
She returned to the window, glass in hand, but did not sit.
She stared out at the Pacific Ocean.
And thought back 22 years ago.
And she remembered.
That was when Bill had moved in across the street.
Then she remembered something much more recent. This morning. She’d read in the paper that it was supposed to snow tonight.
It hadn’t snowed in this area of Oregon for over 40 years.
That night, it didn’t snow.
However, Judy dreamed that it did.
© Copyright 2017 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.
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