What everything is when it snows a lot.

What everything is rarely in Columbia, SC.

What everything was last winter in Columbia, SC.

What every born and bred US Southerner secretly wishes to be.

Playing in the snow, for someone not used to it, is the single closest thing to returning to the womb. It is regression and release. You wake up in the morning, and something so unexpected has occurred, it's as if God has come by for coffee. It's absolutely magical.

And when you come inside, the snow melts, and you can feel yourself, all the bad stuff, melting with it. It's cleansing.. cold and righteous.

And as you go to sleep, you can feel the day fall off, the sun fade. And everything seems, just this once, to be right.

Of course, I'd probably feel differently if I lived in Buffalo.

The phone rang, waking me. It had been a late night, and a group of us had closed the local bar and then walked home, bundled up, arm-in-arm, against the harsh wind coming off the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. We snaked through the Riverside area streets, stumbling across the uneven sidewalks, holding each other up until one by one, like a motely flock of geese eyeing their spots on the pond below, we peeled off and landed at our respective homes. Shivering, we waited until we saw lights go on inside and then moved on. Marie and I were left alone to stumble and giggle to our apartment house. She lived directly below me, but this was before we shared our spaces, and we slept in our own beds.

" Get up, get up, get up," she said. "Look out the window."

"Why? What the hell are you talking about?"

"IT'S SNOWING!!!!"

She hung up. Her door openning and shutting and the soft quick thud of her footsteps echoed up the stairwell. I met her at my door, her long sun-streaked hair a crazy wreathe surrounding a beaming face. We pressed our noses against the cold window at the landing, and our breath gave us steamy goatees.

She was right. Cautious, reluctant snowflakes swirled in unfamiliar surroundings. ("What the hell is that?! A palm tree?!?" "Look out for that pelican!") More than a dusting, from the second floor we saw white lawns and car tops. The few leaves remaining on the trees gently held tiny spoonfuls of wet crystals. Branches were traced with little rivers of white.

"Come on!"

She yanked me by the arm and we took the stairs down four at a time and shoved the front door open and stood on the wet stoop, me barefooted, she with huge pink bunny slippers, both of us in flannel jammies and giant bathrobes. The air was hard, expectant, uncertain. We heard only the soft hiss of the snow and then, below that, the friction of our exhalations. She stepped on to the walkway and with arms spread as if to embrace the snow, she started catching it on her tongue. I followed her lead, each of us spinning in opposite directions, a gear of snow silliness.

I stopped and said, "We need supplies."

"I have coffee ready. Let's go."

Marie poured us two mugs of strong coffee while I pulled on some old running shoes. Still in our pjs, we piled in to her CRX which was soon toasty warm although we kept the windows halfway down to feel the cold. Snowy faces, warm toes. Delightful. The roads were fine, but we crept along reverentially, a giddy procession of one.

We stopped at the Magic Market about two blocks away for supplies: a pack of powdered donuts for her, a cinnamon bun for me. The check-out guy, an enormnous man reminiscent of Popeye's Bluto that I'd never seen there before put down his paper and simply chuckled at us as we bought our goodies, like we were kids blowing our allowance. Which, at the moment, we were.

" It's pretty, isn't it," he said, almost to himself.

We agreed that it was. To say any more would be to waste the precious time we had to be out in it.

We drove around some more, going everywhere and nowhere.

"Turn here," I said.

"Oooo, look at this street," she said. "These houses look like candy."

It was coming down hard enough now that it covered our previous tracks. Now we rolled the windows all the way down. Once we'd finished the coffee and treats, we went back to the apartment.

We went to our respective bedrooms to get dressed and go for a walk. I've always been a sucker for girls in sweaters but Marie simply floored me. She had pulled her hair back in to a loose ponytail. Her jeans, worn and faded, had agreed on the proper placement of snuggness and looseness. The heavy, earth-toned Guatemalan sweater relaxed on her curves and in her hollows. I felt priviledged.

"Let's go for a walk," she said.

I forget where we went or for how long. Arm-in-arm like the night before and yet not, the snow scrunched under our feet and we talked about anything that came in to our heads. I do remember every cell in my body bursting with profound joy. This would not happen again for a long, long time. A tender, swaying music accompanied us, every snowflake a unique note in a chord to be played once and then vanish.

We got back to the apartment house and did side by side snow angels in the teeny front yard. By accident, our hands touched when we stopped. I moved mine a centimeter away to make sure I wasn't being too forward. Then I felt Marie's fingers inch toward mine and interlock and give them a squeeze, and we stayed there as snow covered us.

"It's like we're flying through space," she said.

"Through billions and billions of galaxies," I said.

Apparently the cinnamon bun didn't cut it since my loudly growling stomach broke the lengthy, peaceful silence, and Marie said, "C'mon, let's get up. I'll fix you lunch."

The snow was letting up now, and by the time we had gotten up and made it upstairs to my apartment, it had completely stopped. In a few minutes Marie had the stovetop working with eggs and sausage, whole wheat bread ready for toasting, another pot of coffee brewing. I openned a window. Two cars floated slowly down the street.

We ate our lunch and chatted and read the paper as I imagined old married couples did. I pushed the couch next to the open window and we pulled a blanket over us as we watched the snow melt.

Marie leaned over and said softly, "Thanks."

"My pleasure," I said. "Any time it snows, I'm your man."

"Then I wish this would've been a blizzard."

"I'm flattered," I stammered.

"Don't be. Of everyone, you were the perfect person to do this with. Why do you think I moved in downstairs? I figured something sometime would happen so wonderful and I'd want to experience it with you."

I openned my mouth, attempting to speak.

"Shhh. Let's just watch what's left of the snow."

I pulled the blanket up around our chins, and we slouched down lower on the couch. Marie put her head on my shoulder and eventually we drifted off to sleep. During our slumber, gravity rearranged us so that we were both stretched out, her head on my chest, our arms around each other, her legs encircling mine.

I peeked out the window. Steady drips fell from trees and rooftops, each with a sigh. Islands of white turned gray and slowly shrunk within themselves. Three houses down two children laughed and shrieked and ran around throwing snowballs.

With my free arm I readjusted the blanket, managing to cover us completely. I received a hug in dreamy appreciation. I hugged back and prayed for a blizzard.

inspired by Laura Elizabeth

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