I had woken up to a darkness. My door had been closed. I realized it was now open. My body froze in a hot rush as I realized that there was something standing there. Someone standing there.It was a strange presence at the entrance of my room. Malicious. Ominious. Looming. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak. It floated near my bed side, and I panicked because I couldn't do a thing even though I knew that it would soon begin to strangle me.
As it stood over me at my bedside, I lost the ability to do a lot of the things I take for granted. Anything that supported the strange act of living had somehow escaped me. I couldn't do any of it. Speak. Move. Breathe. I wondered if my heart, the only thing that seemed to still be working, continued to beat for the sole reason in that I was the most romantic hopeless romantic that the evil spirit had ever visited. Even if we didn't need our hearts to beat in order to live, I'm quite sure that it would be the last organ in my body to give up when it came time for me to die. In such a shocking fight, my mind finally spun its gears, telling me to breathe. Forget moving. Forget speaking or screaming. Forget even your heart. Forget anything beyond breathing. Just inhale and exhale. C'mon.
And the shadow disappeared. My door wasn't actually open. My body suddenly decided to catch up with my mind which was still in a state of overwhelming fright. Whether or not there was a shadow didn't matter. What mattered was it wasn't there anymore. I inhaled. I exhaled. I just breathed.
My body was still shaking from fear when I turned to the window. White stuff fell from a sky that was brighter than I would have thought it could be between three and four in the morning. Although I spent a winter in New York, the cold was still such an alien to me. I sat up on my bed watching the sky fall slowly to the ground. For some reason, I felt like it was the first occurrence of snowfall I had ever witnessed. There was something so magic, something so thrilling, something So-This-Is-Being-Alive about it.
The bright snow was more than welcome to me after the dark shadow's visit. It was like bits and pieces of spotlight were making its way to a white stage. I reached up and pulled the window wide open and felt the rush of below freezing temperatures. My breath quickened, my lungs felt strong and ready for a sprint if the cold so demanded it. Funny how winter can represent sleep and death, and yet the cold that it brings with it stung my body awake. I felt like sweet Christmas.
And maybe it was that assurance, the tingling chill that comforted my existence in a "If you feel this, then you're still alive" way that coaxed myself to lay down again. I fell back asleep before I thought of an answer to how I would fare on the snowy commute to work the next day.
Vrmmmm! VRMMMM! A loud and unfamiliar noise filled my room and shook me awake. An invasion? An earthquake? An attack? Zombies? Mormon missionaries? I sat up in bed again, alert and relieved that I was able to move after waking up this time around. I realized the noise was coming from outside and looked out of my window. I slid my window open once again and poked my head out into the wintry elements, secretly looking forward to the weather outside eating my face with its cold and enlivening sensations.
At five in the morning, all my tired almond eyes saw in their blurred sleepiness were dark spirits flying about the neighborhood leaving green glowing fairy dust behind their path. I sat there for a few minutes while my eyes adjusted. Finally, I saw dark shadows mowing over the sidewalks on loud and angry four wheelers. Mini snow plowers pressed against the snowy sidewalks, clearing the treacherous concrete for pedestrians and leaving the gift of a beautiful spearmint green sprinkle of coarse salts as evidence that they had, in fact, been there at all.
I thought about shouting out thank you, but with their engines revving through the icy terrain, they would have never heard me. I thought about walking out to them and thanking them, offering them water...But I thought that the sight of me at five in the morning might have scared them off much more than showed them my appreciation for their early morning work.
I sat up a few more minutes with my elbows on the window seal and my face resting in my cupped hands, enjoying the cold harsh air that my open window provided me with. I was fascinated in being able to see my own breath when I blew air into the world. And even though it happened every time, I was always quite pleased with being able to see the results of my lungs functioning correctly. I then studied the tree in front of me that stood so tall on such a cold night. I was tickled by how the snow on the twig-like branches made the entire being look like black and white coral from under the sea. I wondered if the tree was cold. If it felt things like temperature or embarrassment...Or love. What a life to live if you couldn't feel those things.
A man on a 4x4 was on the sidewalk just in front of my window. He rode over certain parts of the walkway over and over until he was finally satisfied and the way was safe and clear. He was just a dark rugged shadow, but I wondered what he looked like underneath the layers of black that he wore. I wondered what the face under the helmet looked like. I wonder if he knew that a girl from the third floor might be watching him clear the way for her morning trek. I wonder if he knew he was appreciated...
I caught myself before I leapt into an entire fantasy with the stranger in black, the witner Knight, on such a noisy contraption. I laid back down and fell asleep for the second time that night, comforted by the protection of the Knights of the Salt Table.
In the morning, I woke up at 5:30 AM sharp. I showered and made myself an old fashioned bowl of oatmeal, taking my time with a Friends episode. I specifically chose "The One The Morning After."
There's a scene that kills me every time, that reminds me that cruelty and love all exist in the same universe. It just takes a spoon and stirs every emotion that ever pumped itself through my heart:
Look, look, there’s got to be a way we can work past this, okay. I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine my life without you. Without, without these arms, and your face, and this heart. Your good heart Rach…
With the bowl of oatmeal finished, the bra, shirt, shirt, shirt, sweater, coat, scarf, and beanie all layered on my brown body, I locked the door to my apartment and headed down the twelve steps that took me to the sidewalk. I heard a scratchy crunch, like I had just stepped on a parent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I looked down at my boots and saw the sea foam green salts sparkle all about me.
"Thank you," I said out loud and smiled. Then I walked downhill towards Main Street in Salt Lake City where I stood just in front of the temple. I made fun of the temple with silent eye rolls and wonderment before I came to the same conclusion I always do: What a terribly beautiful building. And just before continuing on my way to work, I looked down and around and studied the temple's dark shadow covering all of Temple Square.