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Through the Snowstorm | 2016 | The Art of Losing


Where did feelings go when they disappeared? Did they leave a chemical trace somewhere in our minds, so that if we could look inside ourselves we would see via the patterns of neurons some of the important things that had happened to us in our lifetimes?  

-Evelyn Lau

In Four Short Weeks

I may not be remembering the facts right, but I know how the night felt.

"I need to tell you something," said Daniel. Kest and he had been over under an hour, during which I stuffed them with fried swai and we watched videos about intentionally deficient robots. It felt so normal, though I knew Kest wanted tonight to end in sledding instead of recording a podcast.

I feel a lurch, a sick tension in my organs. I remember this last when Melanie left me, this sense of "What has been coming has been brewing a long time. That does not imply I am ready for it."

I forget now, even a little later, exactly how he phrased it all. His landlord was modifying the terms of his lease, he said, and the time was just right to move in with Kest in Maryland. "I was going to wait until New Year's Eve to tell you," he admitted. "Kest said I should do it tonight."

When the snow started coming down, I told them that I understood it was unlikely we would see them. Kest messaged back that they would come over unless the roads were too bad. I wonder if a part of this was so Daniel could get this confession out before New Year's Eve and can start fresh. Or, at least, so he couldn't ruin that night.

My emotions flare as they would in a romantic breakup. I want to be alone - or alone with Amber, which is superior to being alone by myself. I want to process this emotion, probably by crying. However, the night is early and it does not speak to logic to turn him out because I am distraught I will soon see much less of him.

Amber and I stomped downstairs so we could bundle up for the cold. I was, for want of a better term, pouting when Amber came in. "She's taking Daniel away."

I'm not an idiot, least of all about emotions. Daniel is not being taken away. He is leaving because Amber and I might be one of the few things tying him to the Hudson Valley. In his shoes, when all signs point to me having worn out my welcome here, I would follow my fiancée where she might lead me.

When I got back upstairs, Daniel was telling Kest that his bank isn't going to try to fill his position. Without him, that role will simply cease to exist. It's hard to avoid the symbolism.

It might be narratively satisfying to suggest I threw a fit as though a spurned lover, but we galloped to a hill beside our apartment where Kest had already forged a sledding path. This, she assured us, is better snowman than sledding snow, though a misting of rain had crusted the snow with a thin sheet of ice that facilitated her descent.

I tried to stay in the moment, knowing how few more of its kind I am going to get with Daniel. When Amber went in to get Kest a scarf, I called after her to bring out my point-and-shoot camera that I might record the evening.

And I sledded with abandon, my rides always veering too eagerly for the bushes. Daniel did not sled, instead standing at the top of the hill in regal dignity, wearing Kest's furry monster hat and looking at us with apparent appreciation.

Once we all looked like snowballs, once Kest and Amber had tasted fistfuls of the untrodden snow, once Amber had made a snow angel and shoved me down in snow once, once I tried to make the torso of a snowman by rolling a ball down the hill, there was a moment of stillness where I asked, "What now?"

I thought maybe this would be the end of the night, that they would hop in Daniel's car.

Instead, they came inside and had hot chocolate, chatting as though we had forever. Kest asked us to go to a museum with them and pinned down the day. Then, with that settled and the cocoa exhausted, they left.

It's barely a minute after we heard Daniel's car pull away that Amber and I were holding one another, a foot from our lighted Christmas tree, bawling our eyes out in the grief that Daniel will cease to be a constant force in our life in four short weeks.

Soon in Xenology: Faces.

last watched: Sherlock
reading: Sleight of Hand
listening: Die Antwoord

Through the Snowstorm | 2016 | The Art of Losing

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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