Texts and calls arrive frequently, from Mom and Dad: they want to compare notes. “How are you doing?” “What’s the temperature now?” “Has the snow hit there yet?” “How much?” Two and a half hours separate us, but given that northeastern Pennsylvania is closer to New York and Massachusetts than Baltimore County is, I may as well be living in a totally different world. Maybe that’s true. This is a higher elevation, where the wind chill achieves a sharper bite. You go outside for a few moments; when you venture back in, the cold follows, making itself at home. Pace, shower, or brew a fourth pot of coffee: that cold still lurks there, flash-freezing your consciousness, chewing at your consciousness, laughing mirthlessly.
Over the years at Splice Today I’ve railed against snow, which in retrospect seems silly given that most of the time I don’t have to drive anywhere. Anyway, there isn’t much snow—a few inches here or there, enough to be a nuisance. These days sub-zero fronts are the true enemy—bleak, blustery wraiths that escalate heating bills and transform poorly insulated spaces into Frigidaires. And, sure, last year was rough—but this is the first winter when I catch myself really calling into question an attachment to my apartment house and the area where I reside. Questions about that have been raised over the past few months. The answers, personal and complicated, somehow feel less real than the deep freezes impinging on the huge, energy-inefficient windows that peer into my apartment.
The full-court press of winter serves to underline the sense of isolation I experience here anyway. In gentler seasons, no one else is to blame for hours of gazing into the eye of a laptop on a weekend evening. Right now, though, venturing out anywhere equates to placing my health at risk; the sidewalks are slick, the wind can turn the unwitting to dry ice in a blink, and the handful of people I know around here are finally starting to recover from a nightmare flu that’s made the rounds. Every day is long, and the world feels like a prison. Spring? You’re free to turn up at any time.