The snow had started to fall the night before, so when I awoke, the world was colorless and bright despite the gray clouds that still lingered in the sky, sheltering the earth from the sun’s warmth. Like a tragic beauty, cold but brilliant, the winter had officially set in.
Watching the tiny white flakes drift softly to the ground, I try to lose myself in the snowfall. The year never picked up the way I’d imagined, leaving my mind weighed with regret and pain. What had I done wrong? Why have I wasted this time?
An abundance of scapegoats flood my mind, but no excuses satisfy. I know what’s wrong with my life; I can lie to the entire outside world, but I still haven’t mastered the talent of lying to myself; not completely, anyway. I close my eyes tight, hoping that when I reopen them, the world is different. I do this often. It never works.
The house is as lonely and quiet as it has been since I moved in. That was five years ago, and I haven’t left the place since. My sister is convinced I’m ill; she comes to visit and take out the trash, but I’m not as sick as she thinks. At least, I hope I’m not. I tell myself I could go outside at any time, but I never do. Why would a healthy person choose complete isolation? Maybe I am sick after all.
My eyes leave the falling flakes when a new figure appears, drawing my attention. It’s Catherine, the woman who lives in the house across the street. She’s an average looking girl who must go to the local university. I see her coming home with books and wearing items related to the university. We’ve never spoken or even met, but I’m in love with her.
I imagine she’s intelligent and funny, perhaps majoring in literature. Her voice is pleasant; small but powerful. She has great taste in movies and television, and I hope one day we can watch some together. I know; it’s a wild imagination based on nothing but watching her every day from the window and the one piece of mail that was accidently placed in my box instead of hers.
For all I know, her name isn’t even Catherine. That’s just what it said on the envelope. When I begin to focus on what I don’t know about her instead of the fantasy, however, my stomach starts to hurt. Or something near my stomach that isn’t my stomach. Regardless, I hurt.
Catherine is standing at the edge of her driveway looking up the street. She’s obviously waiting for something. Uncomfortably, she’s shifting, trying to warm up in the cold. She’s covered by a heavy pink coat, a hat, scarf and gloves, but they don’t completely erase the chill. What is she waiting for?
Soon, I know the answer. A moving van pulls onto the road, and Catherine flags them toward her driveway. She seems relieved, even happy, they have arrived. And not just happy because she gets to go into her warm house; she’s happy to be moving, leaving all this behind. Leaving me behind.
It suddenly hits me that Catherine, the girl I feel so close and connected to, doesn’t even realize I’m here. No matter how many warm thoughts I send in her direction or how many powerful feelings I waste trying to share them with her through this self-built prison, she knows nothing of me. Everything I feel for her doesn’t exist. I don’t even exist. Yet…
I can’t let her leave without a word. Even if nothing ever comes of it, at least I’ll know I touched her life somehow; if only for a moment; if only for a simple introduction.
I haven’t seen my shoes in years, so I don’t bother looking for them now. Slippers may appear odd, especially in the snow, but I can’t waste time. Aside from the lack of shoes, I manage to appear pretty warm and normal. After checking myself in the mirror once more, I go to the front door.
I’m staring at the knob, contemplating turning it and exiting my home for the first time in five years. What will I say when I’m beside her? Will I even be able to talk? What do the snowflakes feel like when they land on your skin?
I close my eyes for a second, hoping that when I open them, I’d have already been out and back. Again, it doesn’t work. Something in me tells me to retreat back to my room to watch her leave forever from the comfort of my bed. I almost give in, but then I tell myself that I can leave at any time. I’m not sick!
In a flash I turn the knob, open the door, and step out.
The winter’s cold pierces my being, and suddenly the world stops. I feel my body break up into tiny little pieces as I fall to the ground, no longer a man but a collection of tiny flakes of cold, white snow…
I wake up from the dream, back in bed and in the isolated world I thought I’d left behind. It never changes, I never change, and there’s no escape.