Untouched Snow Road
Snowflakes swirling through a black sky make me dizzy. My head is tilted back, mesmerized, trying to follow the entire downward trajectory of just one. It’s impossible.
They’re like summer insects banging against fluorescent lights illuminating Big Y’s empty parking lot just down the road from where I grew up. Or dust, backlit by autumn’s red sun, kicked up on Old Ferry Road by that 2001 Jeep Cherokee I loved so much. Loved enough to shed blood, tears, three afternoons, and two nights installing an aftermarket 3-inch Rough Country suspension lift kit.
I remember that snowy night clearly, or at least bits and pieces of it, lit by gentle red fire engine emergency lights. Everything is dark midnight one minute, bright as Amsterdam’s red light district, where I traveled through earlier that year, the next.
And it’s quiet except for the fire engine’s low purring, with its putrid stench of diesel. So quiet I can hear the crunch of boots in fresh white, shifting from one to the other. It’s incredibly cold, even beneath a sweatshirt, Northface jacket, and second-hand fire repellant turnout coat. The temperature is dropping.
Williamsburg has been shut down, a state of emergency declared. Firefighters, myself included, have been posted at all its main intersections. Ahead, Route 9 stretches off into the falling snow.
The engine’s radio crackles from its cab. I strain to hear but can’t; instead flick on the rechargeable flashlight in a gloved hand, shine it down the untouched snowy road.
Headlights then approach. It’s a lone car, a Honda, still out at this hour. They reach around a corner revealing weary telephone wires depressed by accumulation, bowed maple trees, and drifts taller than me, ten years old.
Back then, drifts swallowed up my second hand boots whole, and scrunched holy socks under bare heels. I’d hop inside crying to collapse on the soaked kitchen floor, drenched towels bunched up like eels against the fridge. But that was then and this is now.
Now I’m much taller than the snow; however, I wish I could still drop to the wet kitchen floor, throw clothing somewhere near the washing machine, and go curl up on the couch.
The lights are piercing bright now.
“Where are you going?” I ask when tires crunch to a halt. The driver, a man in his 30’s, peers up into my flashlight through a cracked fogging window.
“Just up Hyde Hill Road. Can I get through?” he says.
I look at the little Honda.
“It’s taking a risk, but you should be OK. Just drive slow, be careful.”
He nods, rolls up the window. Then slowly inches off down the road.
Sometime in the night, I don’t remember when, I fell asleep in the cab, helmet covering my eyes. The other firefighter and I traded off every few hours.
Morning sunlight revealed Williamsburg’s quaint center covered in feet of snow. How many I don’t recall. But I do remember snowplows skipping against pavement, knocking on doors of elders to make sure they’d survived, sipping burnt Dunkin’ Donuts Box O’ Joe black coffee from a scalding foam cup without a cover.