Life in a Northern Town: Snow Borne Sorrow

We needed saving. These young church-goers on Main Street – flock to a fledging faith as yet formalized. We needed saving from the endless dark season, the numbing cold. Snow everywhere. Even in our thoughts.

Under the light – the street lamps and their pyramids of brilliant infinite jest and the constellations and their deep freeze diamonds – we cruised from the western edge of the world to its Eastern most outposts. From the farmer’s co-operative and their rusty railway tracks to the old A&W drive in out there on the route to the big city. At either end nothing but bible blackness, some distant wall beyond our sight.

Snow is the color of memory. The color of a drunk’s memory, a snow borne sorrow; all this passes, even the beauty of its crystals. Ain’t no miracle being born…we knew trudging through the banks of this frozen landscape… it’s remembering not to sleep out there with the spent stars…death being no enigma either.

The problem of a drunk’s memory is that it’s not much one at all. Drifts like snow, can freeze up and it lasts a sole season before growing dirty and disappearing altogether. I’m a drunk and there are only a few images and moments from my years of growing up in a northern town.

Puking in the snow is one. On my knees. Staring at the utter luster of the bank into which I was vomiting. Vomit, beauty, vomit, beauty, Kenny N my compadre patting me gingerly on the back. Vomit, beauty, the hidden infinite thoughts of the human mind. Vomit.

Beauty… the stone-taste of melted snow in my mouth, consumed in fistfuls after throwing up all that celebratory beer.

Being driven through its sheen in burgeoning cars, off to another party in someone’s house void of parents, parents in Hawaii having escaped the snow.

How quiet too, staggering near a line of trees on the edge of some vast field, and peeing into the darkness there. Breath rising in a fog in front of your eyes. Extremities burning with frost. Darkness on the edge of town.

We got drunk in summer too, and spring and fall, but winter we drank to keep at bay the endlessness of blizzards that never went back away. From the utter bleakness of gray upon gray, we moved through the rutted streets, got beer, got gin and Kahlua. Got drunk. In basements, in garages, in the back seats of cars. Loverboy, Journey, The Cure, The Clash, early Madonna before all the flash. We got drunk.

Waking up in someone’s overly-warm  house their furnace fueling the air full of sparks and slumber. And a hand reaching out through morning’s gloaming, reaching out to save me.

Me taking it and rising on my spinning body.

Time to get you home.

Laura D. Some modern day Mary with her fiat. She is the color of snow, and sometimes I get her back, but just briefly until the sorrow melts it all away again the kind a drunk gets. Laura D. who I walked home from school; Laura D. dancing crazy leaving in her trail a swath of broken beer glasses, Laura D. who I called “Babes” one inexplicable mid-winter drunk journey to a nearby town. Laura D. calling me Father Mulcaney.

Ain’t no miracle being born.

It’s the way our footfalls disappear in the knee-high snow leading right back to your door. Out of the blizzard, out of the cold, that endless fucking snow. Life in a northern town.

Being saved by those you know.

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