In January, my skin turns to snow. I leave my dorm in the morning, hair shower-wet, mousse-sprayed to my neck, snowflakes crystallized in my curls. I wear black tights and salt stains bloom on my thighs; I wear black boots and white lines cross my ankles in waves. The spaces between my fingers grow cold.
Everyone talks about the weather. They count inches fallen, hours of darkness, roads closed. They dip boot-tips in muddy pile-ups and press gloved hands against red cheeks, It’s so cold. Small talk becomes How are you? I’m fine, I’m busy, has it snowed?
I start to sleep too much. My head hurts; I feel the backs of my eyeballs and the rounded edge of my skull against my neck. In bed I turn over so often that my sheets come off the mattress; I don’t fix them for a while and in the morning I wrestle with white cotton.
In February I get lost. I am on the Weeks Footbridge but I don’t know it; I only know that I have lost my earmuffs and that snow falls into the spaces between my calves and my boots like clumps of sugar. I start to cry because I am late, because I’ve missed a deadline, because I didn’t get into a class, because I wanted something and did not get it or else because I did and that was all.
They do not tell you how cold it is here. Or, they tell you, buy long underwear, Californians beware. They do not tell you how the cold feels, what it looks like. The lawn in front of Memorial Church goes from green to white to brown—liquidy, lumpy piles. You walk through it and you think of a sunny afternoon when you sat on your cardigan, head against a tree, next to a friend, centuries and centuries ago.
In March I write a paper and it feels like I’m squeezing the words out of the pores of my fingertips. I eat a bowl of dry cereal one piece at a time and go to sleep in my tangled sheets; snow falls from my windowpane and hits the ground in dull thuds.
I wake up the next day, and it’s cold; it’s cold and I am fine. I walk through Eliot courtyard and hear the clatter of forks through the frosted windows of the dining hall; I enter the Square and icicles hang in size order over white-paneled buildings; I walk down Brattle Street and the wind slices across my cheeks, and I am fine.
That night I finish my paper; the words leak out of my fingertips. I smooth my sheets. My roommates and I sit on a lint-heavy rug in the common room; we rest our elbows on the coffee table and form a jagged diamond, snowflake-like. We talk about all the times that we were late, that we missed deadlines, that we wanted something and did not get it or else got it and that was all. It feels like talking about the weather.
At some point that night, one of us decides that we all need to exercise, right then, and so we play “Girls” on Spotify and pledge to do a squat every time Beyoncé sings the title word; she repeats herself over and over in the chorus, faster and faster, and none of us can keep up. We all collapse on the ground and watch a sitcom instead, too tired to follow the plot but we laugh along with the soundtrack anyway, heels digging into the rug.
In the morning, we go out to brunch. Overnight, the temperature has risen; my coat feels hot against my skin and the sun dries my damp hair. My boots clank on the ground, no longer so padded with snow; my fingers grow warm in my pockets. It still looks like winter. The lawn still holds liquidy, lumpy piles. But we have sore thighs from squatting, and we’re getting brunch.
Everyone talks about the weather. They count inches melted, hours of sunlight, days until they can walk outside without coats. They dip boot-tips into clear melted puddles, and press gloveless hands against flushed cheeks, It’s getting warm. Small talk becomes, How are you? I’m fine, I’m busy, it’s a beautiful day.
They do not tell you how warm it is here, how it feels, what it looks like. The lawn in front of Memorial Church will go from brown to green. In April, maybe, we will sit on it; until then, the common room rug will do.