I catch glimpses of the video–an analytical description of the autonomic nervous system. It is both too much and too little for me right now. The primitiveness of the hunt, the threat that is ever-present in our lives, has put me on this graph at full activation–State 1–always ready to react.
I want to be outside. To feel the flakes on my face. To bite the cold with shivering teeth. To pretend that winter will stay.
I want to be those bare branches, gathering snow in my arms, soaking up every last bit of moisture after too many days of drought.
The sky whitens as the swirls make their way across the city. The video provides a relatable example–how we react when we’re driving a car on a snowy evening and slide on a patch of ice. I giggle, minimally, and my co-worker turns her whole body towards me to be sure I see her how-dare-you? glare.
Does she not understand the irony? After a winter without snow, we’re watching a video with this particular example on a snowy afternoon?
Later, State 1 follows me as I rush out of the building, late to pick up my youngest. I find a parking spot half a block away and rush against the crowd of parents and children leaving the school. I stomp through the slushy parking lot and round the corner of the building as the first grade teachers close their doors. There she is, the final student standing in the cold, holding her hood around her eyes and huddling against the brick wall.
She asks for both of my gloves before we arrive at the car, blasts the heat, and turns on the heated seat, but she doesn’t complain. For once, she doesn’t complain, and I find myself breathing in, breathing out, like the wild animal described in the video, ready to let go.
But I can’t let go. It’s the drive on ice in swirling snow, the counting of thousands of cookie dollars when I get home, the friend over, the constant mess, the story told of the one day the older girls caught–and almost missed–two city buses, the trek across town to the bank, the grocery stop, the endlessness of the swirling snow and the swirling reality of everyday life.
Before I jolt across the parking lot that separates the bank from the grocery store, I hear the sirens. The sound of panic, the crashing of metal. The slipping on ice.
I grab the few frozen items I need off the shelves and make my way back into the snake of traffic. It twitches and slithers in the shadow of blinking red and blue lights. The accident, less than five minutes behind me, four cars splattered in pieces across the intersection, firefighters fighting the good fight.
That could have been me.
I think about the graph in the video, the curving line, the constant dip that we find ourselves trapped inside, unable to get over the hump that could save our lives.
The panic that sets in when our kids won’t listen, when we’re running late, when we fuck up an interview, when we slip. On ice.
I make my way into the snake. In slow motion, we weave through the mess of the accident. I breathe in. Breathe out. Think of the words I will write. Of the children I will hug.
Of the irony of this swirling reality of everyday life.
And I laugh.
(No one glares at me).