KEVINMcNEILL

“The mi­nus­cule in­fini­ties of snowflakes. They’re all dif­fer­ent and no­body’s both­ered be­cause they all look the same”

The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

Af­ter a day of silent, lyri­cal snow­fall, a dark­ness closes in on the win­dow, turn­ing the street lights syrupy, the thick fresh snow qui­etly bright, as though lit from within. The old nar­row street looks invit­ing and im­pos­si­ble, like a Christ­mas card re­ceived from some­one long dead.

I open the win­dow. The icy air is cold cof­fee to my skin. I put a warm jacket and gloves on. Clam­ber­ing out the win­dow, I drop and land with a muf­fled thud in the snow. Who does not feel like do­ing some­thing un­usual? For th­ese are far from usual times.

A drunken Silent Night leaks out of a party some streets away. The air wafts cin­na­mon and mulled wine into my imag­i­na­tion. Where are you? I trudge through the vir­gin snow, my mind spar­ring with the sharp ob­scu­ri­ties of what it is to be truly alive.

You have been dead now for twelve months.

I pre­tend I don’t know where I am. This is Prague, I say. Upp­sala. Reyk­javik. Bedford Falls.

In old black and white films, the snow was re­ally corn­flakes painted white. Snow so crunchy meant di­a­logue had to be dubbed in later. The muted scrunch­ing sound this real snow makes is de­li­cious.

Though churches glow and par­ties turn win­dows into ran­dom TV screens, out­wardly the old town is also dead. No foot­prints in the snow. Re­mem­ber that poem about the bridge? The wee girl whose foot­prints van­ish? You loved it. Who knew that you too would van­ish.

The FBI la­belled It’s a Won­der­ful Life sub­ver­sive.

Christ­mas was in­vented by Dick­ens’s ghosts. I turn a cor­ner. And meet some­one like you, my age, still alive.

She gives me a sad smile, hic­cups, then stag­gers away.

A de­press­ing man named Borowski killed you, five decades af­ter he killed him­self. Of Auschwitz he wrote, “Be­tween two throw-ins in a soc­cer game, right be­hind my back, three thou­sand peo­ple had been put to death.”

De­pres­sion is more pop­u­lar at Christ­mas than any other time.

It is snow­ing again. The mi­nus­cule in­fini­ties of snowflakes. They’re all dif­fer­ent and no­body’s both­ered be­cause they all look the same.

It snows more heav­ily, snow on snow, more and more heav­ily un­til it’s as if singing in­vis­i­bly with a pure chok­ing lyri­cism, a white weep­ing.

There is noth­ing truer than this; Christ­mases to come will have their new ghosts.

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