The Smell of Cold

The black wipers whooshed across her vision leaving a dotted streak in their wake. She eyed the side mirror, her blinker matching the sound of the rain. It had been twenty straight days of gray clouds blanketing the sky, storms starting with gentle mist and then growing to a howling deluge. She changed lanes as the DJ’s voice faded, the thick chords of a piano drowning out the storm. The music tugged at the sides of her mouth, and a nostalgic grin formed as the memory washed over her.

It was the day before Christmas Break, the parking lot crowded with cars sporting splotchy salt stains. The snow nearest the curbs was speckled black with road muck; they were due for another snowfall to cleanse it all. The classroom was warm, protection against the Winter cold. Seven round tables clustered in a star pattern, but the seats were empty. There were ten minutes left in class; the talent show had ended early. She leaned against the piano at the front of the room, it’s almond colored wood scratched in several places. Her friend stood next to her, her black hair ironed straight, green-brown eyes dancing in the fluorescent glow. Theirs was a leftover kind of camaraderie; they had been close in jr. high, but the passing years had slowly wedged their differences between them like the inching growth of the icicles outside.

He was seated at the bench, lightly fingering the ivory keys. His skin was the color of a latte and his sandy hair was styled in soft gelled spikes. He was the start of the basketball team and wore his red and white jersey to advertise the game later on that night. The casual play of his fingers began to form chords, and her heart skittered as she recognized the song. It was one of her favorites. He continued through the opening and started to sing the words quietly. Her friend picked up his tune, and then – even though she couldn’t sing well at all – she joined them too.

He had never talked to her before and probably didn’t even know her name, but the song grouped them, the sad lyrics weaving off their tongues. She fell in love with it all then, in love with the moment. They sang about loneliness, and she watched the seconds tick away her senior year. She loved him for playing that song, for his smile while he mostly spoke the words. She loved her friend too, their separate lives and inevitable parting.

The song wound down as she slowed, the next exit hers. That had been fourteen years ago. She figured she was probably making up a lot of the details, her memory filling in for the foggy past. The rain began to fall harder now, and she increased the frequency of her wipers as she thought about bricks and coasts and that bonded loneliness

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