Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside

To say I’ve been in a fog lately doesn’t really cut it. For the last month—well, actually, probably since Christmas, life has felt like the commercial break between two shows. But maybe not even shows you’re that interested in? Like episodes of Top Design that you’re watching in a marathon? I don’t know, my point is that everything is a little tuned out with just a few products or people or situations hitting home. Thinking back to Christmas I basically come up with: static, static, nachos. Static, Purina. Static, static, MySpace, e-mail, static. The American Revolution. Static. Big crush on Top Chef Ilan. Static. Bean curd. Starbucks gift card. I Am Charlotte Simmons. Going to bed at eleven. Static.

Is this just what happens when winter kicks in like a vacuum cleaner? It went from nothing to full power with the flip of a switch, it seemed, and it sucked the heat out of everything in its path. I was sleeping with my fan on and my windows cracked. Then, click, winter’s on, and I feel like a corpse they’re keeping on ice. Stuff the towels in the windows, look at heavier curtains on WalMart.com. Get up. Forget to return the Netflix. Go to bed again.

According to Merriam Webster, “February” comes from the Roman festival “Februalia,” named for Februus, god of the dead and also god of purification. (I tried to do some further research on the festival, but pretty much failed. Depending on which unreliable Geocities site you check, Februalia involved either candles or fasting. Apparently its legacy lives on only in poorly coded internet resources with pagan poetry on a black background.) It sort of makes sense, though. You kiss something goodbye in December, and you welcome something home again with your pale arms poking out of short sleeves in spring, but February sits mournful and empty between the two.

It’s not that I don’t like winter, because I actually really do. I look forward to snow with as much enthusiasm as I did when it could magically relieve me of my scholarly commitments. But there’s this way that people (by which I mean, like, everyone who lives somewhere cold) are in the winter that makes me kind of sad. I think it must stem from the bodily change we have to make every year when the temperatures hit single digits and the wind turns your face into frozen steak. In the fall, you walk down the street. But then winter hits and when you’re outside you hunch down, you pull down into your jacket, you hug your arms to yourself and stick your hands in your armpits, or else cram them way down into your pockets, you bury your head in a hood and breathe into your chest. My coat might as well be a bank vault, and I travel like heat is gold. But anyway, my point is, all of a sudden your body is completely turned into itself, and I suspect there’s a psychological change that mirrors winter posture. Not so much secrecy, but this sort of lonesome autonomy and privacy. More quiet. I don’t know, there’s something sad about it.

Thank God astronauts are driving cross-country in adult diapers to have catfights, right? February has given me at least that much.

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