A Surface of Snow


Once there was snow, deep and mysterious. It settled upon the land which never truly woke, as the sun limped a narrow arc, too weak to fight through the infinite particles. You could see trees and buildings standing in the haze of cold like newspaper silhouettes. The fields were the length of eternities and the woods were dark bare caves, pine needles picked out like a myriad of seamstress needles in the sheltered spaces. The land below hibernated yet never truly slept, and the watchfulness from the windows in the village was echoed in the gaze of that new land that you brought me back to.

Flurries of crystals that stung and caressed in equal measure, you brought us to the Teufelsmühlstein, across the Autobahn and we rolled back the snow together to revel the dormant grass of that little field. It was so vibrantly coloured that it seemed obscene somehow, in the midst of all this muted heaviness, so I covered it again. You watched. I think you knew why.

Into a thousand undying landscapes  we would go. Walking through drifts of snow across the fields, building a snowman. Your rough hands around my own, compressing the snow crystals into a ball. The sound of snow, the whispering of a thousand voices, like the echoes of Mother’s cool hands upon my forehead during a fever dream. Dim copses of fir trees, little archipelagos of shelter in a white and grey dim world, smelling of pine and plum cake rich earth. Frozen rivers and waterfalls, visiting old friends of yours, pilgrimages to old haunts. The crystal tears of an old lady in a gasthaus somewhere past Muggendorf, who had not seen me since I was a baby. My teenage impatience mingled with a sense of wonder and joy. You had brought me home, yet home was so foreign at the time. Your ardent desire that I love and appreciate this place – did you dare believe that I accepted such a gift? Porcupine quills on the shelf at my Aunt and Uncles home near the Wiener Neustadt Bahnhof, finding your photo in the hall of the Hauptschule we both attended, nearly half a century apart.

There are a hundred things I try to chase away – those feelings that we wasted time better spent loving each other – things I don’t want to think about, because in my mind they push me to the dark spaces under the trees, and outside it is snowing and I cannot find you to show me the way home.

I know that you have left the world, and that there was a gift you wanted me to have, but it feels unusable without you. Some nights I look to my telephone to see if you might call, and let me hear your voice through the static of time.

I will keep seeing you, in the forest, in a doorway, in the gait of the old gentleman on the train platform but you will be gone by the time I can steal a second glance.

When it snows, I will think of you.


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