The Snow Day
The Snow Day
The apartment seems smaller than ever today. The girl sits on an overstuffed, tartan couch. She’s consumed by pillows and woolen blankets piled one over the other on top of her hairy legs. The roommate sits at the other end of the couch, scrolling through a news article on her computer. She huffs every few seconds as she reads to communicate her distaste for the subject. The cat sits between them, curled into a neat, orange tabby ball.
Small hands of snow spin against the window from a storm that rolled in yesterday afternoon and shows no signs of letting up. Charlottesville was woefully unprepared for the bad weather. The girl and her roommate were also unprepared and are now equally delighted by the prospect of spending the day lazing around inside and annoyed that the fridge only holds a bag of mushy apples and a 6 pack of Pilsner. The girl feels the urge to ignore the problem and waste away in her blanketed cocoon. Imagining starving to death in a four-inch snowstorm prompts the girl to action though.
“Corner for groceries?” she asks, shifting her frigid toes into her legs.
“Let’s do it,” the roommate replies, snapping her laptop closed. She reached the same conclusion five minutes ago, but was too engrossed in her article to suggest they leave.
It’s still afternoon when the girl and the roommate descend the steps of their apartment into the snow. However, at 4:15 PM the February sun is already beginning to set. Add to that the gray of the storm and the girl and the roommate are left with an afternoon that bears a striking resemblance to a pitch-black night.
The girl is not dressed for fifteen degrees. She grew up in Virginia where it hasn’t dipped below 30 for the past 3 years running before now. Her flimsy winter coat bats uselessly in the wind and her unbroken-in snow boots pinch her toes as she relearns what actual cold feels like. Snow begins to settle on her hair. She remembers the warm yellow cap, made by her mama as a Christmas present, that’s buried deep in the box of junk she lugged back to school a couple weeks ago.
The girl isn’t sure her hat will see the light of day anytime soon since she isn’t planning to fully unpack. In a short three months she intends graduate and move back to rural Virginia; the box unopened. She silently wishes for the soft knit now though.
The girl and her roommate slip and slide through the slush like they’ve never walked a day in their lives. It’s not long before the girl misjudges her footing on a slick patch of ice and falls hard on her back at the corner of 14th and Wertland, her ears ringing with what sounds like the America’s Funniest Videos laugh track. Across the street a group of boys in khaki shorts and UVA jerseys ask if she’s ok.
“Yes, thank you.” She calls back, eyeing their bare calves. Are they ok?
The girl rights herself in the icy puddle she’s sitting in as freezing water clings to her back. She recognizes one of the boys from the Foxfield races two years back. Specifically, she remembers that he was arrested for jumping onto the track. The last time she saw him he was being handcuffed, face deep in a tuft of grass, wearing a pair of pastel pink pants and a checkered yellow and white sport coat that reminded her of Easter Sundays.
The girl feels a nostalgic pang in her chest at this moment of recognition. Despite her qualms about unpacking and her rush to get out of dodge come May, she’s recently become very sentimental for in her last semester. Even insignificant things like seeing the boy from Foxfield remind her that she did actually enjoy college.
“Do you want to hit the place closest today?” the roommate asks, breaking up the girl’s reminiscing of warmer alcohol fueled days. In nicer weather the girl would insist they walk all the way up to the other end of the corner to go to the convenience store there.
“Sure.” The girl gives a tight nod. Normally, she avoids this closer convenience store at all costs, but a broken neck seems pricey and she doubts her physical ability to make it up the icy hill that leads up the corner.
The precarious pace they were keeping on Wertland turns into a silent crawl as the girl and her roommate attempt staying upright for the rest of the way. The girl is glad she has these tenuous steps to fill up her thoughts. Despite this focus though, she feels the pit in her stomach steadily grow.
When the girl finally rounds the corner to the left of the street for the first time however many months, she looks up from her feet and runs smack dab into April of the year before. Just as she’d feared it’s all the same. She feels the fabric of a pretty blue patterned floral dress that she wore grazing against her fingertips and bouncing with the rhythm of her walk. The remnants of her confidence that night in the dress, a pair of white jelly sandals, and dark red lipstick hang in the air, noxious. Walking into the bar she is slightly overwhelmed by the hoards of people already inside that night, but loves the feeling of being perceived when she knows she looks so good.
Cold stings the girl’s watering eyes, bringing her back to February. As her and the roommate trek by the the bar she looks inside. Although it’s closed today for snow, the shapes of bodies dancing offbeat to “Mr. Brightside” stretch over the darkened window like a double exposed photograph. She thinks she can see herself and Sadie over in the corner. She can tell by the way the two silhouettes lean in too close to each other. The girl’s blood boils. She has the urge to call out, to warn them that they stand further apart, but it’s too late. That was months ago and she didn’t regret kissing Sadie. She couldn’t stop what happened after.
The grocery store is empty besides the owner who sits behind the corner, working his way through a particularly challenging crossword. The girl is glad for relative privacy as she walks around the aisles aimlessly, glancing at the sidewalk in front of the store every so often. She remembers standing out there after being kicked out of the bar next door. People swarmed around her then, friends, acquaintances, strangers, checking on her and asking questions. The bouncer forced the girl out of the bar with an unlicensed gun in his belt for kissing a woman in public, but these people reminded her it happened. They released club statements and wrote angry Tweets. They rehashed the truth of what happened in an endless loop until the story was nothing more than a stream of noise. Sitting on the edge of an armchair in alderman café, overhearing two sorority girls talk about a tall tale that only passingly resembled her story, the girl worried the shadow of this event was her legacy at UVA. She still worries about it sometimes, but less so since new, more salacious stories have come along.
The girl eventually settles on buying three packs of stovetop ramen after walking around for over ten minutes. The pink, plastic packaging crinkles franticly in her anxious hands.
“Let me get it” the roommate gestures for the girl to add the packets to her own bag of Cheetos and box of gushers on the counter. It’s nothing, sixty cents worth of noodles, but the girl reads the pity in her roommate’s gesture perfectly. The girl is painfully embarrassed and defensive, but doesn’t know why exactly.
“Treat me.” Her grin masks red cheeks.
The path home is not so treacherous as it was the first time around. The girls learn from their earlier mistakes and keep a low center of balance as they trudge along. Passing the bar one last time, the girl is sure this is the last time she’ll see it before graduating. She imagines what new restaurant might be in this spot a couple of years from now when she comes back to visit the University and see younger friends. The bar closing is not just wishful thinking. corner real estate is tough and always changing. In fact when the girl started college, before it was a bar, the place was a brunch spot.
“Do you remember Café Caturra?”
“Yeah, they had great sandwiches,” the roommate smiles and then continues “way better than the garbage here now.”
The girl smiles too, genuinely this time. Out in the cold air she feels more aware than in the store and realizes that she confused her friend’s solidarity with pity earlier. She loves the roommate totally in this moment.
What happened in the girl’s third year haunts her; she knows this. It’s why her typical choice of convenience store is inconvenient and why she won’t hold her girlfriend’s hand in public spaces. But her own memory of the street isn’t fixed in place like she originally thought. Standing in front of the building now, that night in April is fading away. The reflection of her and the roommate and an empty sidewalk are all she sees in the window now. The girl used to dream about throwing a brick through the bar front as a form of retribution. She bends over, methodically packs a snowball, and lobs it at the window, imagining the sound of glass shattering into a million pieces.
It slides down the glass, leaving only a wet streak on the pane. Not ideal, but the action is enough to satisfy her for now. Maybe legacies are overrated, the girl reckons. Once the window is wiped down, the girl graduates, the place closes and is replaced, then there’s a good chance the story of that night and its legacy will be erased from everywhere but her and Sadie’s memories. And the girl can live with that.
The pleasant rumble of the heater at work greets them when they get back to the apartment. The girl walks in, drops the bag of groceries down, and picks up the cat who waits at the door. She pressing her cold nose into his soft ginger fur, breathing in the comfortable warmth of a snow day.
In my third year of college, I was the victim of a hate crime at UVA. It was a traumatic experience for me that really colored my view of my time at the University. Despite realizing how upsetting this incident was for me though, I spent months ignoring what happened to me and avoiding my own emotions. “Meditation on a Snow Day” is a fictional account of what finally reckoning with a traumatic event of the past can look like.