When the Cold is This Cold, Physically and Personally, the Smallest Amount of Warmth is Sufficient

The air was as cold as expected in a Chicago January; the mid-20s failed to hinder bus top conversation, day trips to the record store, and late night excursions to favorite watering holes. Though, by Tuesday, after receiving information regarding a (now) former friend and ex-girlfriend (whose actions were done with the sole purpose of myself finding out) AND my own family (whose actions were never supposed to become evident to me), my face resembled that of a person stuck in the barren cold with no place to go. My involuntary reaction at the news was to take the offensive, and how could I not? To sit by and let my name be trampled on like an old dirt road from the King of breweries when they still used Clydesdale horses.

I rose up, confronted the wrong-doers, broke them down to bite-sized morsels, and devoured the softened tissue and bone without the aid of water or condiments. They have since been shit out and forgotten, but not without a lasting wonder left banging in my skull. “People really do this, and the people that were once in my life were those kind of people.” I am still amazed, yes, but in the certainty that I’ve maintained my position and beliefs, I have become the steady rock, in my own eyes. Or, as Henry Miller was nicknamed by photographer-friend Brassai, the “Happy Rock.”

This, in turn, leads to another dilemma. As a person who avoids conflicts wherever possible and does not, nor will ever, intentionally screw someone over, where does this retaliation stem from? Are people this short-sighted? Does the motto, “Learn from your mistakes” not take root and develop as an idea inside their beings? As you can tell, though the situation has been dealt with and is seemingly out of my hands (leaving the trespassers out in the tundra instead of myself freezing and helpless), the questions stay clutching to a fence post in my whirlwind head, refusing to go away. “How could I have let these people into my life…could I not see the poison in their fiery eyes and useless jabbering?” My senses are honed to pick these bad seeds out, I’m convinced, but they can still get through. It isn’t a reason to write everyone off, not at all. That is only self-detrimental. It has, instead, lead me to applaud and celebrate the ones that I surround myself with whom I share a common goal: live!

To live to the fullest, one has to watch out for the most important element in the equation, the self. Defend it and tout it like the gem it is and if someone is to attempt to tarnish it, or any others in the circle, attack. Tear them down and leave nothing but footprints.

With a smile on your face, or at least in your heart, like-minded people will open up. Good hearts share with other good hearts. For example, my mailwoman:

The -10 degree windchill rattled my bones and face as expected and my fingers, numb with red and grocery bags, fiddled with the front door. As it swung open from the help of a good person inside, I breathed deep the breathable air in my entryway. The mailwoman was bundled up and happily dropping the bills, advertisements into the open-mouth-baby-bird boxes. “Wow…how are you doing out in the cold?”

“Hell, this ain’t nothin’. You’re not from here are you?” Her voice came from behind a scarf covering the lower half of her face, leaving the large, kind eyes free to inquire mine and divvy up the envelopes.

“Well, I’m from Indiana. It doesn’t get this cold, though. That’s mine, #3.”

“Okay, here you go,” she said as she placed it neatly in my grocery bag. “Boy, you need gloves that cover your whole hand. Cover it up!” She made an excited motion, as if sheathing both arms in a warm wrap. “When Mother Nature brings it, you gotta be ready. Or else she’ll eat you up!”

I looked down at the knitted half gloves a friend, long-lost Hugo (aka Fang), had made for me a few years ago. “Yeah, well they cover some. I’ve got pockets to keep my hands warm.”

She laughed. “Pockets ain’ gon’ keep your hands warm when you’re carrying groceries. Man, your mama would kill you if she saw you now.”

I smiled, “Yeah, she probably would. Listen, can I get you anything? Hot cocoa or coffee or something?”

“No, that’s okay, baby. I’m almost finished. Here, they don’t live here anymore,” and with that she handed me a free Gilette razor, identical to the stack she gave me during the summer. “You keep warm now.”

“Thanks. Have a nice day. Get inside soon.”

“Don’t you worry about me, doll. I’m strong.”

And that is why I like her, as well as those that I bring into my life. The simple trait of strength.

Strength determines character. Weakness merely attempts to undermine other’s characters.

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