by Aqeela Naqvi
I don’t know what it is about snowfall that never fails to catch your heart. That fixes your gaze to the sky like some remnant of older, more primitive magic. It creeps in silently, thickens the air with a cold so bitter that not a single breath is taken without being reminded of winter’s arrival. Inhale, exhale—white fog delivers to the wind what your mouth cannot speak, caresses the ears and whispers secrets of a pinkening twilit sky. You stand at the window and watch the neighbors rush inside with brown grocery bags, locking the doors behind them as if the simple action might keep out the cold. You rest your head against the glass and watch the fog from your breath gather as street lamps begin to turn on, one flicker after the next. In their glimmer, you spot the first snowflake and lift your head, staring closely to make sure you aren’t imagining things. But Look! here comes the second, and you yell Snow! Snow! crowding around with your family, rejoicing because you Can’t believe wearing our pajamas inside out actually worked! The night stretches out in front of you, a stifled yawn, a yellow kitchen, and a well-oiled baking sheet ready to warmed by the fire.
A hundred snowfalls, yet each one holds its own wonder. Is it because with every inch of snow, there is an added inch of silence? The clocks on the walls seem to offend with their ticking for surely time itself must have ceased to exist. The earth seems to shrink to be contained in the four walls of your home, its iron core replaced instead with the murmuring of your steel furnace. Or does the wonder exist because every falling snowflake is you at age six with your tongue held to the sky on account of that’s how they always did it in the movies and you, too, would like to know what happiness tastes like.
Is it because every forming icicle is a formation of you through the years, tiptoeing into the house with your snow boots, the first step accompanied with What did I tell you about shoes in the house and I just cleaned these floors yesterday, but upon seeing the redness of your nose changes to a shake of the head, a kiss, and a cup of hot chocolate that warms you from the tip of your ear muffed head to the bottom of your three-socked toes.
Or is it because even now as you drink your grown-up tea, you only taste that mug of hot chocolate, and see the smile on your father’s face as your mother sprinkles cinnamon in his oatmeal, a soundless exchange of love so tender you turn away before they realize that you stepped in on their secret; a look that you lock away in your memory, save as a means of warmth to counter the frost of white days such as these.
And soon, when its much too late, you curl into your bed and let the blankets embrace you as you fall asleep to the sound of whistling winds and the rumbling of snowplows, their yellow lights chasing each other like sparks of fire across your bedroom walls. You let the seamless patter of snow carry you into dreams of glowing lights and places of comfort, knowing that the morning ahead will bring with it scraping of windshields, cleaning front steps, shoveling driveways, cold hands, and even colder feet. The snow will muddy and where there was once twinkling perfection laid softly down by hands more graceful and powerful than yours, you will stomp and march and infringe on the scene, making your mark once again on the world.
Tomorrow, life will resume. But tonight? Tonight you let the snow silently cover the lawns and houses and cars and mailboxes. You let it powder down like a million shredded crystals of glass, let it rest on and around and beneath you as you watch quietly through the window; as you listen to its shushing of let me in, let me in. You let it erase every trace of the world in the hopes that the expectations, the struggles, the tension, might disappear; that perhaps, just for one moment, the browning pages of the story of your life might remain unwritten.