Tuesday, January 5

A Cold Night in the City

    The last two nights have been cold. The kind of cold that wraps itself around, radiating inwards. Making me feel fragile. Flesh over glass. Breakable.

    I took the train all week. That has been my favorite mode of transportation since taking an Amtrak trip with my mother when I was little. I traveled by train all over Europe. The subways of New York and DC. I find there's something soothing in the rhythm of locomotion. Particularly on the night train, when the lights blink off randomly and the only sound in the world is the bump and whir of metal on metal.

    I missed my train both nights. Projects that ran late so that I found myself sitting at the platform in the biting cold, alone. Wind gusts at 20-25 miles per hour and a wind chill factor in single digits have sent this city into hibernation. They are not accustomed to cold here. They've not experienced the kind of cold that I did growing up on the Atlantic Seaboard. They've never known the bite of a Nor'easter nor the sudden blast of cold air off the Chesapeake-- it sucks the very air from your lungs, like a punch in the chest that makes you gasp.

    I felt the subtle vibration of the metal rails that signals the approach of a train and began gathering my things. My hands were numb, even with gloves and liners on, so that I had a difficult time making a fist around the straps of my bags. As I stood up to wait for the train to show itself around the bend in the tunnel a homeless man wandered past, wearing most of what he owned on his back and carrying the rest in black garbage bags. He walked past me, his mouth moving with words that I could hear, but not understand; the specific cadence that all city dwellers recognize immediately, the song of insanity. He did not look at me. I did not exist in his world.

    I moved towards the edge of the platform to wait for the doors to open, anticipating the blessed rush of warm air that was sure to come. The homeless man had stopped talking now. Standing rigid on the far end of the platform he suddenly turned and shot me an angry look. He crooked a dirty finger at me and said "You're all done for." Then he turned and continued on his way.

    When I got home I followed an old, familiar routine. A routine born on the Eastern Shore as a teenager. I immediately put the kettle on to boil for hot tea, turned on the stereo and then went into the bathroom to start the shower. I stripped off the many layers of my winter clothing, leaving them on the floor where they fell. Too cold to bother with them now.

    I stood under the water, slowly raising the temperature from warm to hot. Letting the heat melt away the rigidity in my muscles. I listened as James Morrison sang from the other room.
    I've been twisting and turning in a space that's too small
    I've been drawing the line and watching it fall
    You've been closing me in, closing the space in my heart
    Watching us fading and watching it all fall apart

    I felt my body begin to relax. Memories of home filling my thoughts.

    I dressed in warm, flannel pajamas with thermals underneath and then poured a cup of hot Lady Grey. I picked up the package that had been sitting on my doorstep, abandoned no doubt, by my poor half-frozen postman after a few quick bangs on the door that got no response. I ripped off the parcel paper to find a hardbound copy of The Red Door by Charles Todd, the next book I'm due to review -- another commitment that I made to myself. I felt the momentary tingle of anticipation that I get when new review material arrives, then I stuffed it into my book bag for safe keeping and sat down to write.

    The words of the homeless man are with me still. "You're all done for." I remind myself once more that this is not my home, it's just a place I'm staying until I get back there. I fear that if it's not soon his words might prove prophetic. The Sea is calling.

    Currently Reading: My Life and Other Lies: Tales from the Writer's List <-- Click to read the full review. by Steve Pitt. A collection of wickedly funny short stories from a man whose name nearly became a social disease." A Geek Girl at

    Read with me?
    The next book for review is The Red Door by Charles Todd.
    Listen with me?
    The song is called The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore from the album Undiscovered by James Morrison

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    G.~ said...

    Hey T,

    You describe the cold so much better than I. My teeth are usually chattering so hard I can't think and the anger is all consuming. I'm a summer girl. Why I'm in Chicago is beyond me.

    Well, I didn't get my stuff posted yesterday, although I did write it out. It's saved in the draft on my blog. But I have something I'd rather post as a result of my busy-ness yesterday.

    When I'm doing tasks that NEED to be done, I have these epiphanies. Small but fierce. Like me. ;)

    I have always loved the sound of a train. I have somehow managed to live by one, no matter how many times I move. I walk to the tracks and stand there waiting for the train to roll on by. I close my eyes and breathe in the rhythmic sound. I must have been a train or railroad tracks in a past life (maybe in New York) because I feel a connection with it. It brings a calm to me that I can explain but won't do that here. Sounds weird, I know, but it is what it is.

    Let me know what we're hanging in trees, I practically live in a forest. As a matter of fact one fell on both of my cars not too long ago. I was just grateful it wasn't my bike and that tree is now providing heat for us.

    Okay, I've wasted enough space here.


    The Panserbjørne said...

    Well, he was right, wasn't he? We ARE all done for, eventually. Nobody escapes the Reaper, be they king or peasant.

    But these are dark thoughts for a Wednesday. Instead I'll just say I enjoyed this entry because of its vivid, yet chilly, imagery.

    -- PB