The cold bites against his few stretches of bare skin. No clothing he’s ever found has been truly impenetrable against the winter wind. He remains in the state he was born in despite this. He claims that it’s a liminal period, that sooner or later he will extract himself from the polar vortex, but there is no true weight behind his words. At least not yet.
The rush of traffic and people drown out the sound of music in his ears. He fights to gain traction against the slick concrete, but feels a brief moment of joy when he slides down a wooden ramp erected to cover a hole in the ground. He is briefly reminded of a rush he hasn’t chased in ages. The suspension of control he used to feel sledding, letting momentum take the wheel. Abandoning the cool, calculated steps that regularly reigned. The jumps he built with neighborhood children were sometimes taller than he was. At least at the time. And now a four-inch incline can, for a moment, match the feeling of riding headfirst into the pillowy, snow-covered earth. He isn’t sure whether to feel relieved or depressed, though it’ll likely be the latter.
With holdover adrenaline, he decides to cross the street after the foreboding orange hand stops flashing and urges him back. He steps onto the opposite curb just as the light turns green and wonders what it would take to excite him the way climbing up a hill and barreling down it again for hours on end once did.
The snow that cakes the ground now is nothing like the welcoming mounds of his childhood. It cements itself into the nooks and crannies of the street before melting away into a grey unforgiving slush. It seeps into his shoes and ensures that even his bones are cold. No rubber boots or waterproof pants to protect him here from the elements. Just his jeans and the promise of a bad cocktail made with old ginger ale and whiskey from the bottom shelf. He considers pouring it out, but commits. Because something as simple as a drink can help to dull his indifference, and lessen his desire to relive moments past.
He skates across the living room floor with his drink and microwaved leftovers into his self-imposed solitary confinement and ingests as quickly as possible — both the sustenance in front of him and the media he uses to avoid: the blank page, or the prospect of a trip home to go sledding again and relive his youth.
He climbs into bed and kicks off his socks. He tries to stop thinking about the incline. The rush of flying face first down a hill toward certain injury. He ignores his urges to go up on the roof of his building and replace his memory of childlike glee with one of at least adult awe at the sight of the city skyline. He chooses instead to close his eyes and attempt to forget, once again, what it’s like to be alive during the coldest time of the year.