The skybridge window was ice to my fingertips as I sat crosslegged on the course industrial carpet. On the street below the light powder was abruptly swept up into tiny whirlwinds that danced along the curb. I always looked forward to the first snowfall. Though an expected phenomenon every winter, it still seemed to take the world by surprise. My Dad would say that it came to remind us that nature was still in control, that it brought us back to the basics of being human. He would say that is what made the snow beautiful. If only this was snow.
Graham had not moved. He lay still under a mass of foam couch cushions across the skybridge. Disintegrated remains of foam encircled him like a border of bread crumbs. The hood of his jacket was cinched tight, only a slice of his face visible and the edges of stubble from a two-day beard. The thought of walking over to wake him or even speaking seemed insurmountable. The cold was like weights pressing against me at every angle, hindering my movements and my will to try. I hugged my knees tight to my chest with my blazer wrapped around them, an attempt to capture heat. I observed each breathe as it slowly left my lips and hung in the air, just for a moment. Fog remnants of the little warmth I had left leaving my body.
My fingers had taken on a sick yellow hue and jerked erratically as I forced my slightly scratched and definitely warped black corporate looking patent-leather high heels over my bare numb feet. I had refused to buy more than one pair. I wear them most days out of the year. How depressing.
Graham slowly opened his eyes and then shut them tightly before opening them again.
“You’re pale. Like more pale than before…” His voice trailed off as his gaze fleeted
around the skybridge, disoriented. “We can’t stay here.”
Graham grasped the plastic palm tree next to him, the only oddly placed decoration in the skybridge, and pulled himself up. The cheap and tacky way that the relatively newly refurbish building was furnished always annoyed me, but irked me then more than usual. Graham dragged his feet as he lumbered toward me. I looked back at the window and at the spiral I had mindlessly drawn on the glass moments before. I retraced it. Each rotation winding in tighter and tighter and then I pressed my finger hard against the glass in the center when there was no more space. Then the sinking feeling, like the bottom of my stomach had suddenly given way. That feeling had become all too familiar.
“There is more ice than last night.” My voice was weak, almost a whisper.
Graham took my hand from the glass and lifted me to my feet. His hand was cold, like the window. My legs gave way, as if the cold had spread through my body like a disease that atrophied my muscles overnight. Graham clumsily wrapped an arm around my waist. It felt natural, though I barely knew him. We walked forward slowly, every frozen muscle in my legs a shard of ice slowly melting and coming back to life.
The ice on the tall slender window panes seemed thicker the further we walked from the skybridge. The world outside looked distorted, a cartoon world of blotchy grays. So much gray. A lone cocker spaniel had taken on a gray hue as it weaved down the street aimlessly, its nylon leash leaving a twisted trail through the piles of ash. The new gray world felt strange. Nothing seemed real, or perhaps everything was real for the first time. It had been one day since the city burned and one night since the power went out. I had never felt farther from home.
-TO BE CONTINUED NEXT MONDAY- PART 2: GRIT