Nearly sixty miles through the blizzard.
Only someone else's dog to ride with me.
They called him Bear because no one knew his breed.
No one else would ride that night.
No one else shared my plight.
"Spare a smoke?"
The gas station was deserted aside from myself and the attendent. He stood there, smoking menthol cigarettes, while pumping my tank full of regular unleaded. He never flicked the ash. It just kept growing, dangling snowflakes from its ruins, and hanging on for dear life.
He gave me a cigarette and told me they sold cigarettes insides. I shook my head, telling him I only had enough money to get enough gas to get me where I needed to go. He patted me on the shoulder and handed me two packs for the road. "On the house. You have a long ride ahead of you."
Two hundred miles behind me. Merely sixty miles ahead. The road seemed longer the shorter it became. Everything I once held sacred was about to come to life again. Everything I once dreamed of and now feared told me it wanted to be part of the soon to be present. I clutched the sleeve of my shirt as I got back behind the wheel and stared into the falling snowflakes. If only I could go blind, perhaps beauty would cease to be a relevant part of everything around me.
The old man appeared as a vision to me once again. In life he had defied all conventions and defied those that defied the logic of fate. As he believed in my departure, he believed in my return, even as he was no longer alive to bear witness. Those who make a difference in the lives of others never really die. The memory of the living is but a dream in the mind's eye of those who have passed on. The old man taught me that and now he lived within his own sentiments.
It had been ten years since I had seen a snowflake. Photographs and moving pictures were no substitute for the real thing. My only true enemy, the nemesis of my immortality, that which railed against me with all its strength, was opposing me again. I smiled at my enemy. I would not let it win this battle. Too much was as stake.
I had lost too much in Santa Fe. A fortune gained was a fortune too easily lost. Fame rode me like a skirt even when the fortune of my undergarments faded into dust. There was not much time left. The only true pain that follows the soul when it departs from one train depot to the next is the pain of love unrealized. The watch I did not wear ticked away. I could hear every second melt away into the past. Too much time behind me and not enough ahead.
There were those who tried to convince me that the straight line was the fastest route between two points. They were the kind of people who failed to understand the ever changing nature of reality. What rests eternally in the heart refuses to change. That which is not true, and which is not born of faith and love, passes with time. Not all wounds are healed by time. Some grow ever deeper, stabbing at us when we are most vulnerable. I had felt the blade too often in recent weeks and knew the time had come to face my greatest loss. Even if I could not save the sails of my now tattered ship, I could at least bring them to my shores. Too late is but a perspective seen by those who would too easily surrender to the path of least resistance.
The power of my nemesis, the falling snow, increased its intensity with every mile marker I passed. When the landmarks grew familiar, they became obscured by the power of the blinding white. The vehicle under me gave much thought to losing contact with the road and taking me on a short and undesirable side trip. I insisted she keep her wheels on the road moving forward. I would not be so easily undone.
Like ghosts swirling in a mad dream.
Nothing brought against them would slow their dance.
I would not be undone.
I had to walk the last three miles to my destination. The roads had not been plowed and what could not throw me from the road refused to allow me to drive any further forward. Each step deposited itself in deeper and deeper snow. It was wet and heavy. My boots were no match for its depths.
But I was.
The house on the corner still had its lights on. There were cars in the driveway and smoke billowing from the chimney. Until I saw that plume of once they were known as trees I did not realize how cold it really was. There was no feeling in my fingers and barely any in my toes. Still, I was coming across the lawn of the house I once knew too well, and there was no stopping now.
She was gathering firewood from the pile behind the garage when my eyes first found hers. She dropped the unfortunate logs and said nothing. I walked ever forward, wanting nothing more than to pull the hood of her jacket away from her face and let her hair cascade against the storm. She took two steps backwards but I took five steps forward. She could not scream and she could not cry. The wind would have frozen her tears as fast as it could blow them aside. Her frozen face stood silent as I held it between my hands as my lips searched for the words that for so long had never been spoken. She no longer looked real. Her cheeks were too beautiful, resting between my ice cold hands, waiting to return to life. Too long apart. Too long held at different ends of a chess board by pride. Too long damned by guilt and ego. There was nothing that could be said. The snowstorm removed everything gray, from memory to anger, and replaced it with a silent and pure beauty. Were it not for the snowstorm we never would have kissed. Were it not for the snowstorm I would have had to keep walking. Were it not for the snowstorm we would never have had an excuse to give in to what we spent decades resisting.