There is the smell of hair then a whimper then nothing. Everything white – vision, eyelids when they close, skin, the sky, the earth, east, west, north, (not south, never south) – everything a burning white. A cat cries, it’s leg broken beneath a vast expanse of ice. I can see the black pads of its paw. There is nothing I can do. It mews, soft like a whisper, a plea. An hour of constant cries passes. She is dying, poor thing, and a tributary of red, thin like thread, comes into my sight. It freezes instantly, becomes an icicle I could remove and lick; it would taste like cat blood for I am sure it is from the dying cat. She bursts into howls; long, sad, white like snow but black. Death, I’m sure, is black. But not now. Today it is white and it takes her.
At the Peony Day Parade, the avalanche roared, distant in some background, as static, as the buzzing of bees. The motorcade of pink Corvettes carrying powder-faced women and wrinkled men drowned out the humming of the frozen waves. Nobody listened; everyone stood on their toes to catch sight of the Mayor and his twenty-years younger wife. None of us heard the avalanche’s cry above the brass marching band.
She is near me now, the Mayor’s Wife. It is her hair I smell – fresh flowers and fruits. She is as silent as the snow that holds us, packs us in. I know she is alive because I feel her shake, feel her minor tremors. The Mayor is dead. I know because he was old and we are covered in three stories of snow and ice and old men do not last long in the cold.
If I could touch her, I would touch her wrist. I would use only two fingers and check her pulse then rub the artery in a clockwise motion, opening her hand to warm blood. Then I would make lips of my fingers and kiss and her hand would glow red. It would reflect off the white, make everything pink. I would cherish pink forever if I lived.
The Mayor’s Wife makes meek sounds now, tiny pips. If my tongue was not packed with snow, I would tell her it is alright, it will be soon. I don’t know what “it” will be but either way it is a lie – a warm lie; a lie like kindling, cozy. If I could lie to her, I would only tell burning lies, lies that singed her floral hair, lies the gave off orange glows. I would never tell the cold truth again.
In several hours, like the cat, we will die. I hope we do not cry out sad mews with our last breaths; I hope our final words are special. It is an honor to die so close to the Mayor’s Wife. I wish I could reciprocate the honor to her but I am just a spectator.
It isn’t her fault. But she thinks it is. I know because she trembles in the white, because her breath against the back of my leg is stuttered broken phrases, what ifs and why mes. If I could put my leg to her lips, she would not kiss it. Maybe she would bite me, feel fresh blood over her face, drink me to save her – I don’t know; I won’t be giving her the option.
We’ll die in the positions we took when we realized those positions were our last.
Old men and women who die in their beds press their hands across their chest and die beautifully. The war dead die in pieces or with open eyes and shocked lips half-way through an obscenity or prayer or both. The frozen we will die as mannequins in a store, those white bodies in some awkward shape, vaguely human, mostly fake. We frozen do not get to choose, look in mirrors and practice our death faces. We die head-over-heels, broken legged, head dashed, whimpering with a bloody mouthful of snow.
If I could say anything right now, as night will inevitably fall, I would say to the Mayor’s Wife how beautiful she is. Now?, she’ll ask and I’ll say, Always, always you were beautiful but especially now.