A few days ago, I sat in on my best friend Kenny’s anatomy lecture. They were talking about something completely boring and I was slowly zoning out. Opening my laptop I started to play a few games when I heard everyone gasp and stand up. My friend Kenny, thinking quick on his feet, called 911. The professor, a Frenchman who had come to Canada four years ago to teach, had had a heart attack. The paramedics came and rushed him to the emergency room and injected him with this liquid ice prior to his open heart surgery. Kenny told me it was because the cold preserves life, and if you can drop somebody’s temperature down by roughly fifteen degrees Celsius, you can preserve it for the radical kind of surgery that was needed to save this man’s life. He’s coming back in a week to resume teaching.
The cold preserves life.
Maybe it was the French professor having a heart attack or the sudden realization that the cold does in fact preserve life that brought me to the roof of my apartment building. I kept thinking about all those cavemen and Woolly Mammoths that were found in huge blocks of ice and how cryogenics is the latest fad for people who don’t want to die just yet for whatever reason. It’s the middle of January and too bloody cold to be anywhere outside of my pillow and blanket fortress I had built within the confines of my room. The sun was slowly creeping up over the horizon, and I was sitting atop a frozen lawn chair wishing to myself that I had a cigarette to make the moment more poetic, even though I don’t smoke.
It’s been awhile since you last came around. Thirty-one days in fact. The last time I had seen you, you were lying next to me, tangled up in a mess of blankets. Our skin was touching; bare. I could smell the fruity shampoo that you used and feel the softness of your skin under the one t-shirt of mine that you always wore when you were around. It’s been thirty-three days since you were writing upside down and lopsided I love yous on random post-it notes and sticking it all over my room and body. It’s been thirty-one days.
Inhale. It’s so cold that I can feel the sting of the air as it flows through my body and fills my lungs. Exhale. I can see the hot white steam leave my mouth and nose and dissipate into the winter sky. It’s so cold that for a brief moment, all I can focus on is how my lungs feel like they’re about to explode, and for that brief moment, I forget about that feeling in my heart. That sensation of missing you so much, so badly, that it’s like a poison, slowly making its way through my veins into the rest of my body. It’s that ache in my bones that make me yearn for those late nights and early mornings with you next to me, all tangled up in a mess of blankets and clothes.
Maybe if I freeze, I can preserve this moment. Make it last forever. Maybe if I freeze I can hold onto that last bit of sanity I have left, and be satisfied with just missing you, instead of insisting that you be here. Maybe I can rest without my neuroticism kicking in and running through stupid scenarios in my head of you with other guys. Maybe it’d stop me from turning my phone over and over in my hand, locking and unlocking it. Maybe it’d stop my fingers from going so numb. On the other hand, maybe calling you and hearing your voice erupt through the small speaker would awaken some modicum of sense in me.
Standing up and walking to the icy edge of the roof, I put the phone to my ear, never dialing, but knowing the conversation that would take place.
Tom, it’s 5:30 in the morning over here.
Over here it’s 6:30. The sun is just beginning to rise. I miss you.
I miss you too babe. What’re you doing? Don’t you have work in a few hours?
The wind was stronger at the edge of the roof. It was numbingly cold to the point where I couldn’t feel the stubble on my face anymore, or the muscles contract and twist and turn as I smiled into the silent phone.
I’m on the roof Scarlett. Couldn’t sleep.
On the roof? Get down you, silly goose.
I was looking at the stars. Trying to pick out a good one to wish on.
Oh? Find any good ones?
Yeah, actually. I did.
Call me then Tom. Call me and tell me about it.
I woke up. The wind hit me like a cannon ball, and I opened my eyes. I walked back and sat in the frozen lawn chair. The sun was just over the horizon now. Turning my phone around and around in-between my fingers, I slowly unlocked it and dialed your number. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should disturb your sleep. Pressing the soft glowing green call button, I put the phone up to my face.
“Tom, it’s 5:30 in the morning here.”
“Here it’s 6:30. The sun is-” I paused. “Ursa Minor. I picked Ursa Minor.”
There was silence on her end for a few moments. I could hear the rustling of her sheets as she settled in, resting the phone between her cheek and the pillow.
“Tell me about it Tom?”
I leaned back in the lawn chair, one numb hand holding the phone to my face and the other, buried deep within my jacket pocket, drinking in the soft glow of the new morning while the cold preserved our life.