This is Antarctica. Everything's ice. Everywhere.
Even things that don't seem like ice, are ice.
You don't go to the ice. The ice becomes you. It motivates your actions. It changes the way you think.
It replaces your body warmth. Turns you. Crystal.
Today I learned about a thyroid condition called something like T-3. Apparently it happens to people in the form of a disease. You get weird. Lose short term memory. Laugh or cry at inappropriate times.
They've discovered overexposure to daylight can cause it, and in summertime Antarctica, there's a lot of daylight always.
It's an ice disease. So you can't escape the ice even after it's melted and you're gone. It's in you. It freezes you. Enraptures you. Eventually it captures you. And then there's nothing left of the old you.
That old guy--that's some other guy without T-3 disease. That's some guy whose brain hasn't crystallized.
What they don't tell you is that when you become someone else, you feel like it's okay to be someone else. You think some things are normal other people think are twisted.
Like this one, right here. What did she say?
This room is small. Eight feet by 15 feet. Filled with stuff.
Cedar closet. This dude's got a cedar closet in his dorm room.
He's single but has an ice partner. She's wearing an alarm-red vinyl miniskirt and top.
"Think it's enough?" she says.
Someone says "no," so she puts on fishnet stockings.
The spiked choker wouldn't make it through security or she'd be wearing it. She leaves with a plastic imitation around her throat, heading to a punk party at the loud bar.
That leaves about 20 of us in a room tight for two.
I down half a glass of gin chilled with glacier ice. Someone brings tonic water.
"Too late?" It's the diver. Her eyes are glassy from 5 hours breathing compressed air in water two degrees below the freezing point.
"Never too late." Into my glass goes the tonic, more gin. More people come into the room. It's like an elevator in an office building at quitting time.
The man's got lights. He's sealed his window closed against the outside ever-day and planted lights all around the room. When he claps his hands things turn purple. The rope light on the ceiling starts flashing. He pulls something out of his pocket, pushes a button, and it flashes red, blue, and green so rapidly it seems like a white flame.
I brought booze to this party. Tangueray. I got limes but they're coming to the dry valleys where fruit is a commodity.
When I finish my glass I realize I gotta leave. There's no room for my corporeal form.
In Gallager's, the loud bar, there's a band playing. They're fast and tight and the crowd is rocking.
I meet some folks from my prior visit. They're toasted. They hand me a drink, something small and pink. Down it.
Okay to Southern Comfort, orange juice, and something to make the whole thing awful like Jack Daniels.
I get a hug from the team. Drunk people hugging drunk person. Girls, boys, more. Someone aims to kiss me on the cheek and misses.
"We're so glad you're back. We had so much fun last time. I can't wait," one says.
We're heloing out together a week from today. Monday. Gotta go to helo school first. Gotta learn how to throw away junk in the dry valleys.
I feel like I'm wanted. Like I'm in. We're going to hop in helicopters and fly to a desolate, barren wasteland. Then we're going to sample water and deploy instrumentation and act like it's perfectly normal to walk where humans haven't been before. Like it's perfectly normal to watch the sun spiral overhead. Never darkness. Never warm. Eternal.
I think of Garp on his first helicopter ride, shot and dying, "Ta-run ta-run ta-run."
I think of Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now, Wagner blasting from speakers, a wave of olive drab hueys invading enemy territory.
We have nothing to blast. Just rocks and glaciers and ice-distorted us. Like people do this every day.
Like we're normal.
One of the guys tells a story about last year. After I left someone fell through a big hole in the ice and hauled himself back to camp, dripping wet, his clothes freezing. His heart stopping from hypothermia.
Pretty much, after your core temp drops too low, the heart stops.
Deserved it, they think. For being an asshole, this frosted almost-death, well earned.
No one argues. We would expect it, ourselves.
When it's last call, we go out into the broad sunlight, squinting behind our dark glasses, the sun at 1AM. It's like the sun at 1PM only it's over there instead of over there.
"What do you wanna do now?" someone asks as if we can hop into our cars and find a bar that's open really late.
Everyone shrugs. The group splits up without a word. Everyone retires to their room.
Tomorrow they'll be up at 6AM, preparing their gear for another tour of sampling the lakes in the dry valleys. Some will be setting up computer networks. Some will do routine maintenance on the helo turbines. Some will fly. Some will drive.
Tomorrow, instead of being random drunk humans, we'll crystalize into our professions and do what we came to do.
On Mondays the bars are closed in Antarctica, so we have to think of something to do that doesn't involve work or drinking. I'm noding.