059. When Angels Fly. Alison McBain

Angels make an impression in the snow, but they are merely an outline–the shadow of a presence. They have no substance to fill them up.

Men have substance. Snowmen, that is. Big, fat and jolly. Only their tar-black eyes are hollow. Blindly staring past the mistakes they make. They are the last to melt when spring comes, slowly dripping down until they look like old bones.

By then, the angels have already flown away under the newborn sun.

You flew away long ago, but I wouldn’t call you an angel. Lord knows, you aren’t. Night after night like a record player cycling through static, our raised voices danced through the air in a violent samba. The neighbors with their open windows in the sweltering summertime shook their heads at our antics.

Children, they said with their mournful forty-year-married eyes. This too shall pass.

It didn’t pass. Instead, you packed your swanky suitcase, every crumpled-up shirt another word in your argument. My silence was a loud rejoinder; the slamming door a semi-colon.

You’ll be back, I said.

I said it into the phone. I said it in person, handing over the touristy shell lamp I always hated, the Metallica CDs from the glove box, the mesh belt with the frayed edges that had dropped to the closet floor. When others stopped listening, I said it to myself–the words repeating in my head like an old vinyl.

When the first autumn wind blew the leaves into a rainbow of rusty colors, I felt a chill flare in my chest. I pulled out the woolen sweater you had given me for Christmas, held it across my face and felt warm again.

When the snow fell in January, the angels didn’t come back.

Outside, the trees were dead. Their skeletal fingers reached out from the brown ground in a sign language of reproach. Everywhere, I heard your final words, and everywhere, I heard my response.

They became tired of listening to me. I filled that silence now, but they were never the right words. Those words were lost back in the summer.

It snowed. Every day, it snowed. I knew I had to do something, so I went outside and made a snowman. I rolled up the snow until I brought up bits of gravel and grass still green under the protective layer of white, so I had a Dalmatian man spotted with the detritus of summer. I told him you would come back, but his eyes were empty.

When the snow finally stopped falling, I told myself that it didn’t really matter to me at all.

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