I probably should have brought my phone for it’s flashlight, but the moon lights the way through my snowy backyard to my neighbor’s house.
I smell yeast bread on the icy air as I approach her back steps.
I only stand in her kitchen for a moment, long enough for her to place the bag in my hands. “Still warm,” she says. I can see six shiny, golden-brown rolls inside.
At home, minutes later, my daughter eats two in a row. “They’re the best I’ve ever had!” And they are, soft, buttery buds of warmth, reminding us were not alone.
Mom said “ten more minutes” when I went in to get blankets, and that was at least a half hour ago. Probably. Or, I don’t know, because time isn’t real out here, laying under the stars with my two best friends.
Winter was invented for secrets. I was even keeping the secret from myself. But on the trampoline, each revelation comes with a tiny bounce; we ride and roll and bump together wrapped in quilts, agreeing, giggling, drawing the truth out as if we’re painting it with a brush.
I say I like girls. And the soundtrack of night agrees.
Vivian plays the organ for our church. She lives alone in a two-story white farmhouse, the kind they make horror movies about. Last night, I picked her up and we drove to town.
A half-mile in, she turned up the heat and told me about her son’s accident. He’d only had his car for a month when he fell asleep at the wheel, hit a culvert, and was launched into a treetop, where he hung upside-down by his lap belt.
“The branches cradled that car like a bird’s nest,” she said plainly, her thinning blonde hair fragile as corn silk.
He and his dark coat and blank face are as far away from me as the back seat will allow.
It’s late; that dour string quartet could put anyone in a mood.
We pass Superior, then Huron. If he doesn’t speak by Grand, I’ll chuckle and say, “Remember that restaurant in Seattle, the one with the waffles?” I’ll reach out my hand.
We were young then, beards brown instead of white.
“Remember how it rained?” I could say.
That taxi was smaller than this one, and full of zydeco. He was wet and shining, breathless.
We ride, in silence, home.
If I had to (today) pick an item to take to a desert island, it would be a coffee table book of art history (painting, sculpture, architecture) showing works (great and obscure) from all eras, which would be a catalog of beauty (for my eyes), but would also describe the succession of styles from what came before to where they did lead, because that might explain how my mind, which for a year was a torpid watercolor (bleeding formless across a fiber card that was illness) has leaped into the urgent, saturated squares and black borders of a comic book.
I dreamed this mirror was a portal
To the all-girls dormitory bathroom on the second floor.
I could see the before-me,
Watch her with her shower slippers and plastic toiletry basket,
A portable drugstore shelf of cheap lotions
That smelled like mint or apple.
Mirror to trace, mirror to face.
Before-me would step out onto a square of rules
And rationales, and absolving religion.
She could not see fifty-me,
Could not conceive of living through the scheme.
Mirror to allow, mirror to choose.
Reflect the shine of your gloss, the fur of a false eyelash.
Mirror to promise.
Jody’s friends feel sorry for her. (They never say so, but she knows.)
Sure, plowing’s hard work; it’s loud and cold, and she can’t feel her feet. But the twenty dollars per job will pay off her truck insurance, easy. She might even have enough extra by spring to afford the new lens for her telescope. (And —bonus— sometimes the old ladies give her cookies or candy with her pay).
This house, last on her list, is new. The girl in the window is no old lady. Delicate and curious, like a bird with glasses.
A smile. And a wave.
The light in Cori’s bedroom is snow-day light, clean-yellow and buoyant, the kind of light that matches exactly with the taste of chicken noodle soup and the rumble of a plow.
It’s a girl, driving the tractor with the blade. Actually it’s the girl, the broad-shouldered stunner Cori’s only seen at assemblies, since they occupy opposite wings at school (Sam in Arts, Tractor Girl in STEM/Ag). Wool hat, red curls, soft brown leather gloves, breath puffing into clouds that rise and disappear.
Cori leaves the window to reach for her sketchbook, the one her art teacher will never see.