Three Degrees Below Freezing

When the days are warm and the nights are cold, you find the morning puddles liquid and bubbly below a shield of ice. As a child you would walk flat across that ice and watch the trapped air slide around beneath your feet; you would feel the puddle’s skin sag slightly, not breaking, and you’d reach dry pavement before it gave way. In retrospect, it may have been one of life’s greatest pleasures: testing the ice, on those perfect spring mornings, before age and weight took over, and you began to crush everything with your heavier tread, when you suffered through a day with wet sneakers for trying, when you began to navigate around the puddles, first with a pang of loss, and then never noticing them anymore, at least not until your own child discovered them and did the same.

At times like these when everybody seems to be hurrying, their faces reflected in little black mirrors, and nobody sees the iced-over puddles or one another, I wish we could all be small again and play the ice game. Surely everybody else has also trod on thin ice, and known the immortal feeling of being slight, of being buoyed up by ice, of literally walking on air; and everybody, too, knows that growing up ruins everything; they’ve had cold wet feet and stopped wearing the wrong kinds of shoes and they’ve stopped seeing puddles. If we were all small again, we’d all play the ice game, and then we’d grab up the black bricks of ice-dirt that seem to remain in the gutters well into April, and rediscover the joy of heaving them to the sidewalk. We wouldn’t care about splashback or dirty hands; it’s worth it to see those bricks shatter before us, the back oozing away as the ice scatters into sparkling shards.

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