A quarter of a mile from the tip of the massive slope where my family’s house was, we’d abandoned our antique runner sleds to frolic in the snowdrifts. She’d been talking almost nonstop about something she’d seen on the internet so I pegged her with a snowball. Her rambling turned into amused shrieks as we flung bits of hard packed snow at each other’s heads. She chased me out into the field, heaving a collection of hard chunks the snow plow had left behind. I ran away from the path laughing and she followed, childish threats issuing carelessly from her mouth. Our legs burned and we collapsed breathless into the snow. I rolled onto my back, the snow cradling my body better than any memory foam mattress ever could. My breath joined the clouds, excess heat was leeched from my coat, and I was left motionless and perfectly neutral. I could have stayed like that forever. I could have become the Ice Man, and I wouldn’t have minded.
“…and yeah, it’s understandable that she was angry, and the reporter shouldn’t have been bugging her like that, but her son was right there. She should have shown more restraint.”
It could have been seconds later, or it could have been hours. Either way, I hadn’t been listening. “Mm hmm.”
“And of course all her fans were cheering for her, and it was kind of funny to see her go nuts like that, but I couldn’t help but think, like, what kind of example is she setting for him?”
“Mm hmm.” I could see her out of the corner of my eye, kneeling in the snow, playing with a pile of snow, packing it into itself. I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky. I was moving, the earth was moving, and the clouds were standing still.
“I guess you could say she was just standing up for herself, and yeah, that’s a valuable thing to know, but you don’t teach it to a kid by just attacking a reporter out of—”
“Come over here and lie down for a minute.”
She hesitated a moment then moved over to where I was. She let herself fall down in the snow next to me and propped herself up on her elbow, her scarf-wrapped face looming over mine.
“No, on your back,” I said.
She looked at me like I was crazy but did it anyway, and suddenly she was part of the earth, like me. The sky was motionless with us moving. The air was silent except for our breathing.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?” she asked.
“That,” I said, pointing up at nothing in particular.
“What? That cloud?”
“No, just that.” I held my breath and listened. There was nothing to hear, and it was perfect.
“I don’t get it,” she said. I wasn’t surprised.