cherry rye
The cold isn’t that bad this year. The darkness is. It makes the nights all bend together, into each other. The warmth almost makes it worse, somehow. There were near record highs last Friday and Saturday—58 degrees in mid January!—and the affect wasn’t, as you might expect, relief or joy. It was a disorientation, a daze, a feeling similar to when it’s been five seconds since you accidentally bonked your head real hard. The shock has worn off, the bright flash seems like forever ago, but you sit there reeling not so much from pain but from Fear, like maybe this is going to last a while, the throbbing’s not that bad but good god what if it lasts, how will we cope?

Blackness is distortive but also reflective. Toss something towards it and a more grotesque version will be bounced back at you. All you have to do is ponder it and it absorbs and destroys you, you start wearing turtlenecks and pretending to read Sartre. Wallow in it, live in it, make it what you have to deal with all the time, and little weeping lesions begin to speckle your skin.

I start thinking dumb, dark thoughts. I’ll realize insane-seeming connections that terrify me because they make so much sense. For example: there’s got to be link between America’s love of violence and our shitty taste in music and TV. There’s no way that a person who genuinely enjoys listening to Taylor Swift isn’t doing so because their heart is filled with bile and hate. And it’s not too far of a step from enjoying the Big Bang Theory to thinking it’s justified to drop fire on random Muslims.

These thoughts circle and overheat. I’ll toss and turn and sweat. Keep my girlfriend up. Scare the cats. Maybe get up to pace. But eventually the darkness overcomes me and I get pulled into its light, wispy sleep. This is the kind where the dreams linger for a bit once you wake up, and so even though it’s light out by then, it’s still dark.

For a few hours. Things are muddled for a few hours, then dark again. Then begins again the daze, the panic, the fits.

Gradually we all learn to cope. Some of us die or go mad, but most of us develop some kind of method. We pour additives into the black: Christmas lights, snow angels, rye and cherry. These become what we contemplate. The darkness recedes into the background and the dirt fades away, and what’s left is a gorgeous stark relief for something we don’t mind contemplating, because even if it’s boring its less terrifying than our thoughts.

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