Skate

The icy wind stings our faces as we trudge through the street, almost six inches deep in snow already, the not-quite-a-blizzard snow leaping out of nowhere to catch in my eyelashes and the damp strands of hair that Paul can’t quite keep tucked under his wool hat. cute, I think. It’s just the two of us outside today, probably because what we’re doing is stupid in this weather. Not a bad idea, exactly, just silly. I don’t regret suggesting it. We turn in a block and take a right, left, turn onto what would be a rocky, unpaved path at some other time of year.

We’re in the forest, now–my house is only a few blocks from it–and I’m struck immediately by the breathlessness of a brush with something wild. The woods aren’t particularly special or spectacular, but with lots of well-trampled paths and tall oaks and pines and hemlocks and low-growing sassafras and sweet-summer-blueberries, this is a place for memories to be made.

Everything’s obscured by winter’s lens now, though. Now they seem colder, more distant and elegant with snow-crisped branches that spread like crowns from the castles of the tallest trees. The bushes are little more than rounded knolls in the snow, and not even a trace of green peeks through, a softened, pale landscape. But there’s an intense clarity to it, too, to the snow patterns and icicles and frost-tapestries. As though everything has been obscured and sharpened all at once into beautiful, pristine perfection and it will never change, only fade ever-slowly into the falling snow.

Paul’s hand finds its way into mine and I hold it tightly as we draw closer together, continuing into the untouched wood. His mouth is open slightly and his eyes wide in awe behind the old pale blue scarf he always wears, the one I always mock him for but secretly love. I won’t pretend I’m not awestruck, because I am. Our shoulders brush again–the path is narrow with heavy branches–and I grasp his hand tighter, thinking absentmindedly that in this moment we’ve practically fused into one warm mass of wool and happiness and sheer amazement.

Eventually, for I can’t say how much time we spend like this, the snowy trail starts to slope down a little, the tall pines leaning in closer and blocking out some of the sunlight with their snowy boughs, and even later we round a corner, still with gloved fingers tightly interlaced, and come to the lake. Of course now it’s not so much a lake pond, and right now not even so much a pond as a clearing of snow, a space where the underbrush and trees gives way to thick clear-blue ice and a dusting of white. We sit down on a snow covered rock and Paul, slinging off his shoulder bag, pull out his skates, swaps them for his boots (with an grimace and an adorable small noise at the icy cold on his sock-clad feet), and begins to lace them up.

I frown.

“Are you sure this is a good idea? Now that I’m looking at it–what if we get hurt? or fall in? What if the ice is too thin?”

“Look, we’ve done this before. It’s safe.”

He pauses a moment before adding, “C’mere, I’ll give you a good luck kiss!”
Paul looks so innocent and angelic as I lean in that what I expect is something light and gentle on my forehead. But what I get is a full on kiss in the lips that feels like a lot more sin than anything particularly lucky.
Not that I’m saying I don’t enjoy it.  We both know he’s good at kissing.

But I poke him in the chest before this can go on too long because I am cold and no amount of affection will make it not be the middle of January and far too many degrees below freezing for my taste.

“Will you please restrain yourself for one moment while I put on my skates,” I mutter. But I’m laughing a little too much for it to be serious.

We step it onto the ice, and it’s amazing, it’s like flying slowly but with with your feet on the ground and it’s just us and we are together in our solitude and our breathless laughter.

The trees seem to lean in comfortingly on all sides and the snow that falls slowly on the little pond whips our faces as we move together, whispering go on go on go on as if we would ever think of stopping.

It’s beautiful, warm, sweaty, and unimaginably incredible, and when we return my house is warm and that’s incredible too. We end up sitting on the couch with perhaps a millimeter at most of space in between us, me with a cup of black coffee and him with hot chocolate and big, fluffy marshmallows, and I’m reading a book on something-or-other and leaning on Paul’s shoulder while he taps away on his keyboard, a paper for school, I think, and everything is fuzzy and soft and amazing. Outside, the snow keeps falling in the late-afternoon winter chill, and I have never been more at peace.