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It’s cold. Then again it’s always cold. The frost on my window obscures the endless white blanket outside. One day I hope to see ‘trees of green and red roses too’. Instead I see white. So much white. Nothing but white. WHITE! WHITE! WHITE! …Why am I so cold?
The sound of the kettle reminds me of my dream. The water boiling sounds like the train flying along the tracks. I’m sitting alone. The sun, bright and blazing, warms me, thawing my soul. The train accelerates. Faster and faster it goes. My heart gallops- a thousand horses charging from farm-life to freedom. My chest reaches breaking point and then the train stops. It doesn’t screech or slow gradually, it just stops. Calmly I rise, move to the doors, they draw back like curtains and I’m buried, buried in white.
Healy, Alaska has a thousand residents. A thousand people amounts to a surprising amount of letters over a year. In the post office where I work there are about five of us who sort the mail. Bag after bag of white envelopes. Their absence of colour, makes them at home in Healy. At around noon a letter arrives addressed to me from an old friend.
I must apologise for the late reply but I just haven’t been able to think of what to say.
Firstly, what are you still doing in Healy? You have to get out. See the world, meet someone new. Not that Jane isn’t great but Christ, one girl for all your life, in Healy no less. Come see me in Sydney. It’s bloody fantastic. There’s sun. Christ, that should be enough of an incentive for you, Sam. Look I don’t think I’ll be able to make the wedding but you have to come see me before it. Let yourself live just once.
Your mate, Trent.
P.S. Congratulations and send my love to Jane.
The message isn’t exactly cheery but at least his language is colourful. That’s what I need some colour.
Jane is standing outside the school. Her hair dancing in the breeze, light graceful movements, a ballet performed just above her shoulders. Her pale blue dress matches her eyes. The blonde dancers leap back and forth across them. As she notices my car she slides a hand across the stage and closes the show. Holding the dancers lightly she pulls them backstage and slips into the car.
“How was your day?” She asks in a voice unlike all others in Healy.
“I got a letter from Trent” I paused then added, “He sends his love”.
Jane smiled and placed her violin case on the floor. It was tattered, the black finish had almost completely vanished and the wood was exposed to the begrudging cold of Healy.
“Dave and Marsha are having us round for dinner tomorrow night” Jane’s tone seemed to imply that she was well aware of my reluctance to go but that I had no say in the matter anyhow. So I smiled and nodded. We drove along through the endless sea of white. Saying nothing, seeing nothing and feeling nothing. The white is nothing. After thirty years of white my life is nothing.
A single ‘Forget-me-not’ twirling against a bright sky, the sun bouncing off the blue and violet petals. A myriad of colours are reflected off the drops of dew that lace the vibrant petals. Suddenly the sky flickers like a candle about to go out. The petals fall to the ground one by one, the stem with but one petal left, twirls again and again before finally the petal descends to the earth. The sky is dark and then there is nothing. I awake to the sound of a sustained note from a violin being played down the hall. Jane begins a rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’. It is? Well maybe the rest of it is.
“Ah, the Roberts” said Dave as the door flung open. Marsha appeared at his side, beaming.
“Ah, the Bradys” opening my arms in gesture of friendship. This wasn’t a joke; Dave’s last name is actually Brady. I know it’s quite unfortunate for Marsha, if I was her I probably wouldn’t have married a man named Brady. Then again ‘What’s in a name?’.
Dinner meandered along, all but the wine was pedestrian. The wine was good. The drinks flowed into all four of us at an exciting pace. However, the real fun didn’t begin till after dinner. Sitting around a roaring fire in the Brady’s lounge room we polished off the fifth or sixth bottle of wine. I’ll leave you to guess the colour. We felt good and in a festive mood. Somehow the conversation turned to our aspirations.
“If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” an abnormally lively Marsha asked.
“I’d play first chair for the New York Philharmonic’ slurred my bubbly fiancée.
“I’d be President” announced Dave.
I kept silent. My lips quivered as I tried to contain my thoughts, thoughts best left unsaid.
“Well Sam, what about you?” asked Marsha
I couldn’t contain it any longer. I’d reached breaking point.
“Anything, boy that’s hard. Can’t say I’ve ever been too good at music and President sounds too hard. To be honest if I could achieve one thing, just one thing, it would be to leave this f—ing town and never return. Yea that sounds about right. Leave the cold, the nothingness all behind. Leave the white. So much white. Nothing but white. WHITE! WHITE! WHITE!”
I’d like to say I stopped there. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
“Why have I stayed, what possible reason could I have?” I picked up a bottle and sucked it dry. Then I turned to Jane and said in voice barely louder than a whisper. “For you. You’re wonderful and you love me. For some reason. You love me like you love this wretched little town. A love with out reason. If it wasn’t for you I would’ve gotten out, made something with my life instead of belonging to this pointless white existence. Honestly, how do you clowns stand it?” I shuddered and collapsed into my armchair. “Why am I so cold?”.
If you’ve ever heard a million cats fighting in a room where row after row of people are scraping their fingernails down a blackboard then you know what I was awoken by. I shot up to see Jane standing over me, violin in hand. She looked extremely satisfied at waking me with the piercing shrill note she had just struck. She glared at me then turned and stormed out of the room.
“Leave then. If you hate it so much here, just leave” screeched Jane.
I buried my head in my hands, drew a breath and tried to reply. “I want to leave but I want you to come with me”
“Sam I have my whole life here, I like it here, it’s my home” Jane had calmed by this point.
“How can you like it, there isn’t even an ‘it’ in Healy. The whole place is nothing.” I’m not sure if I really thought this would convince her but it was how I felt.
“Sam, you have to choose me or Healy.” Her voice was so sweet and had a faint sound of the tears that were slowly trickling down her cheeks. She turned and walked out of the room.
“Well, you have to make the same choice Jane” I yelled down the corridor hoping my words would catch her.
Sydney, Australia has over four million residents. I don’t care to know how much mail they have though. I work in a little bookshop in a place called Bondi. It’s warm today. Then again it’s always warm. The sun is so nice, it keeps me happy. I may not have found some amazingly meaningful existence in Australia but it’s sunny so somehow that doesn’t bother me. I still talk to Jane occasionally. Well as much as any man talks to his wife.