By Mason Pfaff
It was late December and it had been an abnormally warm winter. The first real snowfall, mixed with frozen rain, was a few days after Christmas. When it came down, it came down hard and fast, making up the lost time. The roads were horrible. I heard my neighbor, a tow truck driver, say something about over 100 accidents called in.
I worked at 4:30, just down the road from a Japanese Steakhouse. I had gotten this job less than a month before, but already I knew I would hate it. When it was slow there was nothing to do. You couldn’t watch the TV behind you, you couldn’t be on your phone, and there was no scratch paper to mess around on. Even if there were, the owners didn’t like you using their pens to cure your boredom. So all there was to do was stand. The owners, immigrants from China, had thick accents and I struggled to understand them. I tried, but I’m sure it annoyed them, and I felt bad.
We had, maybe, three or four groups come in during my 4 hour shift. The dishwasher alternated between shoveling the sidewalk, talking to the manager, and smoking in the back. The manager and I talked a bit. He had a Brave New World coffee mug and liked Philip K. Dick.
I went home early with $10 in tips. It was still snowing, though not as bad and I think the frozen rain was all out. It wasn’t dark out yet. The streetlights were on and the roads were empty.
When I got home I took a shower. With 5 siblings, the bathroom is the only place in the house where I can get any time by myself. I thought about my girlfriend in Peru who had just told me that she probably wouldn’t want to date me when she gets back. I didn’t know what to say.
Afterwards, I passed time doing nothing noteworthy. Maybe I played Xbox, maybe I watched something on Netflix, maybe I read, maybe I wasted time scrolling twitter.
I got tired, crawled into bed, put my phone on the desk masquerading as a nightstand, closed my eyes, and tried to fall asleep. 30 minutes later, I was still awake. So I went on my phone, wasted more time, and then tried again. I repeated this until about 2:30 am and I realized that it’s 2:30, why aren’t I asleep? I didn’t have any caffeine recently, I hadn’t taken any naps in the middle of the day, and I had woken up at a normal time. I should’ve fallen asleep at a normal time, around 11:30, 12:00.
I got more anxious as time went by, thinking about the day, the week, the month. I hadn’t really done anything besides work and school. I was in the middle of me and my girlfriend’s eventual break up and I didn’t care, assuming everything would blow over, that whatever made her question our relationship was temporary and would fade when she returned home. I hadn’t written anything in nearly half a year. There was nothing to write.
It became about more than just the past months. It became my entire life. I had no direction. I hadn’t applied to any colleges, wasn’t sure if I was even going and I hadn’t done anything to change what we’d talked about in October.
At 3:00 I put a flannel on and snuck out the door. The snow had stopped falling. I was surprised at how bright out it was. Brighter than on my drive home from work. I was the first person to touch this snow. There were no tire tracks, no footprints, no animal trails. It was immaculate. I almost felt unworthy to witness it, unworthy of disturbing the serenity. But I was already out and so I might as well go around a bit. I imagined being the first person up on the street for the day, seeing someone else’s footprints. It was cold. I felt the wind blow through the light flannel I had on.
I walked around the block, sinking into the snow, high stepping, trying to keep as much snow out of my sneakers as I could. About halfway around I really regretted this. Should have just gone to sleep, it was probably just five minutes out. My chest was cold, my feet were cold, and my ears were cold. I thought about running back and despite the cold and the snow getting in my shoes, what lay untouched before me was beautiful, and there was a little comfort to be found in that. When I got home, I was more awake than I was before I left, but when I crawled into bed for the second time, I fell asleep without any trouble.