Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Dead things are beautiful, too

One of my favourite things about Canada is the changing seasons. I'm from the middle of the Albertan prairies, where we drag our Ugg boots through the grimy slush, mutter about the state of the gas fields, and wait in the Tim Horton's drive-through for half an hour for a coffee. We have four seasons: Melting, Sneezing, Cooling, and Shivering. Sweatshirts, shorts, scarves, down coats. 

By the time we get to Shivering, a heavy layer of snow covers the aerated school yards. Mittens and toques, red noses. Everyone grumbles about the weather and kids these days and rushes to fit winter tires to their four-wheel drives, lest they be caught unprepared. 

I can't sleep. It's Shivering, and I'm too young to know the difference between failing and learning. I've spent the last two hours huddled underneath my two duvets, the radiator beside my bed cranked. Two hours is a long time for me. You can only imagine how long a school day is. I watch the clock on my dresser, the two dots between the hours and minutes blinking sixty times a minute. I know because I count them. 

I can't take it anymore, so I slip from between the covers and yank open my window. The ice that's collected on the edges of the window panes makes it difficult, but after some scraping and a bit of luck I manage to pry it open. Freezing air rushes into my room, fills my insomniac lungs. 

Outside is dead. The neighbours are all in bed, and our street has never been one for nightlife. A snowplow has come through recently, so although the streets are cleared of snow there's still a layer of ice covering the pavement. I'll probably slip on the way to school tomorrow morning. Above me, the sky is black and empty and the lights from the city drown out the choir of stars but it doesn't make it scary, only dark. The darkness isn't so scary if you spend enough time with it. 

The whole whole feels like it's holding its breath. There's an expectation, a waiting, a deep knowing in my soul that if I sit and wait for long enough the bubble we're stuck in will collapse. My world will be turned upside and inside out, like the stories in the books I devour. But no matter how long I wait, nothing happens. 

So I sing. I'm not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination, but I think love is a good enough reason to do something. It's one of the songs from the iPod my parents bought me, and I only half-know the lyrics to but I do my best. I sing softly at first, then pick up volume. I don't want to wake up my slumbering family. 

My unsteady voice vibrates the ice crystals hanging in the air and floats down to the street. The song and the deadness in the air permeates the sleeping plants buried deep underneath the snow, sinks into the foundations of the houses on the cul-de-sac, warms my toes. 

Not a soul stirs. The whole world is sleeping, barren, comatose. Yet somehow, with the dead air and the black sky and my quiet voice, it's beautiful.