Thursday, June 01, 2006

In memory of snow

“Something” had started – I use quotes because it was a pseudo-something. I had a crush, and found myself lonely and/or brave enough to act on it. Perhaps not so brave though, since I decided to send email. Flirt, but safely – protected in my little nest here in the South. The winter, if you’ll remember reading me a few months ago, was incredibly mild.

It snowed here one February morning. I kept saying it wouldn't. I'd bite back my insistence only when I could see people begin to get irritated that their grand delusions of being trapped in their houses! by an inch of snow! without equipment to clear the roads! was being met with my unimpressed stare and a swivel of my chair to return to my computer screen.

"It's not cold enough." I told them. "You know how it doesn't snow in the summertime? Because it's too warm for snow to form, let alone fall to the ground? The same applies here. If the temperature stays in the mid-40s, it's not going to snow. Really. I'm sure."

In that same way, I'm sure that I'm alone for a reason. That something about how I look or think or interact with people makes me not gather notice from men. So in the same way I am with snow and my new Southern home, I am with marriage and my friends. I'll offer advice, listen to stories with rapt attention, but when questions turn to me, I offer a simple "no news! Dying alone!" And it makes sense to me. Just clicks into place because the factors surrounding it make it an easy conclusion, despite the requisite protests.

One morning, I composed and sent an email – thrilled to be replying to one he sent me, then couldn’t stop smiling. Because I liked him – all aflutter, tummy aching liked him. And he was smart and funny and charming and completely sexy. Energized and not ready to leave the blissful feeling behind in favor of work, I decided to enjoy the snow, understanding it was rare.

I put on shoes and socks, grabbed a jacket (because it wasn’t really all that cold), and put the leash on Chienne. And we headed outside to walk. Looking around at the light bouncing happily over the snow and ice, gently melting the frozen fluff.

The dog was thrilled, remembering moments walked through bitterly cold mounds of snow up north, or at least in my mind, that’s what she was doing. Lost in wonder, I was looking around and realizing how different everything looks blanketed thinly in white.

But then I looked down.

I tried to learn to ice skate when I was young. I was never good at it. I made my way around the rink, but speed and fun were low on my priority list. The top items on the "things that were important to an ice skating Katie" all involved not falling down, getting hurt, being embarrassed. Mom would shake her head over me, while Brother raced around the rink, popping up from falls, making friends, laughing.

Meanwhile, bundled up, I would painstakingly make my way around the edge of the rink, never straying too far from the sides. I tried to pretend I was having fun, easing my scowl of concentration to smile at people when I remembered to do so. Every time I got comfortable, started to ease the grip of my anxiety and move forward with a bit more speed, I would falter in my balance, and gasping with fear, return to the edge so I could hang on. After recovering, I would carefully make my way around again, hands extended to improve balance, recoiling from those who were speeding around in fear that they would take me down with them.

Years later, I kept pleading with Chienne to slow down on our morning walk. I didn’t want to fall and was suddenly unsure of my stability. There could be icy spots. And the kids who didn’t have school today were out – throwing small snowballs and running to slide on the uncharacteristically icy sidewalks. I was scared. I slowed my steps, testing some spots before moving forward, walking on grass to gain additional stability when possible.

I made my way around our normal route with my head down. Any wonder in noticing the beauty in the unusual snow was lost to fear. My extreme aversion to hurt or embarrassment wrestled control from the part of me which twirled happily in the realm of unexpected possibilities. Returning home, feeling the tension in my shoulders from bracing for an inevitable fall, I sighed at myself.

It’s scary, I told my careful side. I know. But the way things are – staying safe and whole and contained – isn’t always great. We want more and that involves some risk. Not taking it at this point is not an option – the desire is so strong, so complete, that it’s irresistible. If he responds, I’ll continue to walk along this path. Flirting, encouraging his attention, wanting to develop some connection with this man I think of more than I should.

We should be careful! That voice pleads. Head down! Watch your steps! Don’t fall! You know, if he thinks about it too much – how I look, my dramatic nature, a tendency toward the serious and worried, someone who would – most days – rather read than socialize, he’d never be interested. Never. So this is racing toward some inevitable end. A fall that will hurt, and a bruise that will take awhile to fade, leaving me still alone, but this time more embarrassed and hurt. Knowing that someone saw inside, then had the ability to judge me lacking in some way. Why do it?

I don’t know, I replied sadly. Because I believe that voice. I like him. I’m not looking right now, am content being alone, like my life a great deal, though there are times I wish there were more. But that hope - it's a bit terrifying.

Yet I want the tingle of checking my email, wondering what he’s said. The knowledge that I might linger in his mind as he eases his way into random thoughts throughout my day. It’s nice – to not feel so alone – even knowing it’s not likely to go anywhere. The fantasy of having more, the thought that this might represent attraction and interest finding me, even as I huddle safely in my house.

But I’m scared. Trying to go slow, test my steps, not stray too far from the edge. There’s a greater chance of getting hurt than there is ending up with something special. But for now, it’s exciting and different, and I’m thrilled. I want him to like me, want to be interesting and sexy and beautiful. So I close my eyes and dial back the fear, and let the flutters take over again. Read the email once more. Smile. And ease back into my day, already eager for hours to pass so I can check email again.

And take the next tentative step.

The problem, as I finish a post I started months ago, is that at some point, the steps aren’t so tentative anymore. It’s exhausting to constantly question, to cling tightly to the edge, to always brace for a fall. So you either give up – as was my choice in ice skating – or you let go and hope for the best. I went with the latter, which pleases me, but I’ve stumbled countless times – catching my breath with remembered hesitation and headed quickly for the side where I could safely watch other people come together then drift apart, fall down, thinking that it must hurt and being afraid to try myself. I think that’s where I am now – having stumbled a few times, bruised a bit, and back to standing at the edge.

He should love someone else – so he can flutter over her because I don’t make him feel that way. Me? I should sit this one out, I think. I tried, and now I’m a little hurt, but more concerned about future self-preservation. If it’s already scary, why try to go farther, watching safety disappear in the distance? So I’m heading back inside, I think, where it’s warm and safe and perhaps I can find some coffee and a book for distraction. Hoping that someday I find someone who sees the possibility – thinks it’s endearing and sweet that I tend to cling to the railing but wants to hold my hand was we head toward more open ice. Who knows? Maybe someday the steps will be more confident and sure. I'll get to feel the rush of being in love and knowing I'm loved in return. Feeling that it's really right and knowing that if I stumble or fall down, there's someone to grin and tug me back up.

Perhaps. I'm having trouble closing this one, folks. It should be hopeful, yet honestly resigned. Who knows? Maybe as I swelter through a Southern summer, the thought of snow is just too hard to grasp with any clarity. That's somehow appropriate here, I think. So I'll leave it at that.

1 comment:

JustMe said...

even though getting hurt sucks, and in the end you always curse your descion to go for it, i think that we have to be uncomfortable to find it/him. otherwise, we will end up always saying no to invitations for a drink becasue our general take on life is being to cautious.

my best friend, when i told her my stupid story, revealed she had done almost the exact same thing. i think there should be some sort of training for people who are too cautious and shy with guys. i know i would sign up.

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