Just when I thought we were in the clear, I woke up to a near blizzard a few days ago. It was the worst storm the city had ever seen since white folks started keeping records of such things. I stared out my kitchen window, transfixed. Even though I was watching it happen, it was still hard to believe. Fluffy stuff was billowing through the air in millions of tiny delicate specks that eventually landed gently somewhere below me, with no end in sight. The day before, it was a filthy cityscape. Now everything was covered with sugar. It was ethereal. The white sheen of the snow against the pale sky made it all gleam and resonate with a purity that was supposed to be everything that the city was not. And yet, somehow whenever it snowed hard enough to bury everything in a blinding whiteness, I felt that I had discovered the essence of this place.
I had to go outside to be a part of it.
Of course, it's always a bad idea to go outside and play in the snow when you're unemployed because you could catch a horrible cold or the flu or something that's just as insidious. I have health coverage, though, so I didn't care. Still, being sick can be pricey. I decided to walk up the block to Broadway to see what was going on and then come straight back to my place. It was only a block but it was a long walk because no one had shoveled the sidewalks. I had to struggle past snowdrifts that were once parked cars and bags of garbage. When I got there I couldn't believe what I saw: nothing. I mean, nothing. There was no action anywhere. No traffic. No crackheads wandering around, like lost children. Not one bodega doing business. Even the mailman didn't make his rounds--and according to his company's little slogan, that's not an option. It wasn’t even that cold.
You know what made it really bizarre? It was deathly quiet.
I stood out there for awhile, all by myself, taking it all in. I knew it wouldn't last. In a few days, there would be an unholy stench from the curb because of the garbage. The fluffiness in the street that resembled huge mounds of marshmallow crème would turn into brown slush because of the cars and the exhaust and the foot traffic. There would be patches of yellow snow everywhere. And then everything would look filthier than it did before the blizzard. But for the moment everything is pure and clean and bright and real. For the moment I imagine that this is what it feels like to be trapped inside an Elsworth Kelly. For the moment all the flowing bits slow down around me, like a Peckinpaw killing spree. For the moment, I'm not in New York City. I’m not anywhere at all.