When Winter rings the doorbell, her eyelashes crystallized into tiny half-moon icicles, her eyes bright, she waits for you on the front porch, hands tucked into her pockets unassumingly.
You peer through the curtain, but see nothing.
She came last night, sometime in between the dog howling next door and the same nightmare you’ve been fighting for weeks. She doesn’t knock until daylight. She’s not cruel.
In the garden down the slope, the red leaf bush that used to look like fire has burned away since fall slipped into a heartless cold, leaving everything bare instead of covering it with a blanket of frost. You’ve barely found a handful of berries on the holly tree this year and you feel guilty for letting down the neighborhood bird population, who are frequent visitors to your yard for a quick meal. The colors have faded from miniature pinks and reds of the rose bushes to shades of blood and sand.
You look down the street for the mail truck breaking the top of the hill, but it remains silent.
Winter’s gaze flits from the front window to the neighbors’ half-open garage to the rusty skeletons of bikes leaning up against trash cans in the driveway. The day is devoid of a breeze but her white hair ruffles at the shoulder. She leans back against the brick siding that encloses your front porch, purses her lips, and finally hops up onto the waist-high wall. Her knee-length coat billows behind her. She crosses her legs at the ankle where her tights reach into her boots and still, she waits.
The past few years, the cold months have come and gone without much notice. The sun hides for awhile, the greenery shrinks into the earth and the people look up at a dry, nervous sky, one that hopes to go unnoticed day in and day out. The nights are bitter and smoky. The stars sleep for the season. When spring comes, everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief.
But right now, spring is still very far away.
A knock at the door resounds again, this one slightly more impatient. Winter blows a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. You approach the door. A curly-haired cocker spaniel on the sofa lifts its head.
One more knock, quicker, louder, and your hands fumble with the lock, twisting the handle hard and swinging it open.
A rush of cold air meets you as you lock eyes with Winter, this girl, this sage, who has come to bring you something very important.
She steps toward you like a breeze in slow motion, wild and drifting and targeted on your eyes, your mouth, and she leans in and suddenly, with a kiss, the world breaks apart.
The sphere explodes from her hand, bursting into a prism that blasts across the neighborhood. Every direction swirls white; not just white but what makes white – every color, reflected in the sky and reversed in the earth, spreading with the fire of a galaxy turned inside out. It whips across the streets, coating the trees and the rooftops and the power lines and the parked cars and the garden gnomes, billowing against kitchen windows and front doors, taking gravel for a spin. It’s a rainbow of stars, dusted with white, trailing the end of the storm.
When the universe reclaims its color, it leaves the world in white.
Snow flurries spring from the sky. As they leap to the earth, you hold out your hand and catch a few large flakes. They crystallize in the warmth of your palm. They do not melt.
Every surface that once had greyed has now been restored to shimmering glory, transformed into its winter coat. Your neighbors leave behind deep footprints as they trek across the streets to look out over a valley of snow, a stretch of trees outlined in white. The cocker spaniel sniffs the air, its chill changed.
You look for Winter, but she is not there; she has kissed you hello and goodbye all at once, and when the spring comes and undoes her work you will hardly remember at all, a quiet visitor on your doorstep.
When you look down at the porch, you see two footprints before you ringed in snow. And when you look up, you see winter before you.
copyright (c) 2013 joanna truman