My boyfriend Chris and I spent last evening listening to old radio broadcasts of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while playing beer pong. The clammy July weather sticking to my skin like thin rubber: that’s the last thing I remember. Today I woke up shivering. I looked for my phone with minimally open eyes because I didn't want sleep to leave me altogether. I found it under the kitchen table. I must have fallen asleep sitting on the hard wooden chair. I don't remember falling asleep.
There’s a flash of old memory: Chris and I sitting on a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. The branch heaved under our weight, but we didn’t care. We thought, if we fall, if we break bones, if we die, it would still be something we did together.
I am fully awake now. The outer perimeter of my brain is pressing against my skull, causing a dull ache. Something tugs at my consciousness, something like a memory or a fantasy so deeply imagined that it might as well be a memory. But my ears are flooded with thuds as loud as thunder, and I can’t pay attention to the tug.
I smell snow. I recognize it from the damp-wood smell that lingers all through winter every year. The air is thick with silence. A type of dense, gel-like silence—if you poked it with your finger, you’d find it difficult to pierce. Moving through this gel is effortful. I walk the ten steps to my bedroom that I somehow hadn’t managed to reach last night. I go up to the window, still shivering, and pull away the blackout drapes, only to be met with a flat, dull gray sky. There is a thick blanket of snow on the tree outside my window. I peer down, and the street, which suddenly seems closer than before, is all white. The spot where my car should be is all white. The spot where the garbage bin should be is all white. The spot where there used to be a grassy patch favored by my neighbor's dog is all white. My field of vision is an expansive unbroken whiteness.
There’s a memory: Chris having a seizure last winter because I tried to leave him. “If you leave me, I will die,” he said. That’s how I know he loves me. That’s how I know he will never leave me. We went ice skating at the park after.
I have checked my phone a zillion times now. It’s always the same: 5:47 a.m., Sunday, July 23. There’s no signal. When I tap the browser icon a blank page loads. All white. I have been looking out of the window for ten minutes now. The snow is beautiful, shining like powdered diamonds in the morning sun. I feel a resistance, a sluggish inertia at the thought of moving away from this whiteness, but I need to check on Chris. He’s not very good at taking care of himself. Last summer, he slept right through the earthquake. I imagine a sudden gust of snow blowing in through his window and burying his sleeping, naked body under a blanket of pure white, the water inside him freezing, his cells expanding and bursting and dying. I imagine red icicles jutting out of his ruptured veins, decorating his snow blanket in polka dots.
Chris can be very affectionate. He’s always holding me, touching me, whispering sweet nothings in my ear. He is like the golden Labrador I had as a child: eager to please, following me everywhere, never leaving me alone. That’s how Chris and I met, actually: One evening he followed me as I was walking home from the grocery store, my arms full of bags of onions and tomatoes and apples.
When I knock on the door to Chris’s room, he opens it immediately. I am greatly relieved.
He says: “Thank God you’re okay! I didn’t want to wake you up after what happened...”
He says: “I need you...”
He says: “This is all my fault.”
He looks down at his feet. I ask him what he means.
“You don’t remember?” he asks, searching my face. He looks so adorable wide-eyed like this, like an anime character. I can see the tremble of wetness in his eyes.
He says: “I’m sorry I provoked you like that last night. I was only joking, but I forgot how powerful your magic can be when you’re angry. I should never have said I would leave you if you didn’t have sex with me. I didn’t even mean it. It’s all my fault.”
He sighs. He looks so apologetic; his eyes beg, like all he needs is my forgiveness. I think of Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, pleading to be loved.
He says: “But I am also a little flattered that you would move the earth for me.”
He looks shyly at his fingernails, his voice husky, like old music from a scratchy record. He has lovely fingers, long and elegant, like an artist. I want to suck them, one by one.
“I live over at the building with the dumpling shop,” he told me, jerking his head towards the northeast. I knew which building he meant. I was a regular at Ching’s Asian Cafe. “I’ve seen you around. You’re pretty. Can I hold your apples?” I let him hold the apples. My sister would have disapproved.
I loved him from that very first moment, when his slender fingers brushed mine as he took the bag of apples from me. We stood around awkwardly after bringing my groceries in. It was getting dark, and the house was bathed in a sort of twilight haze. We kept talking without turning the lights on. Let him be mine, please, I prayed to the Storm Spirit. Chris leaned in and kissed me. She must have heard me.
I feel this strange lightness, a hollowness. I wonder if the earth had moved far enough to alter the force of gravitation significantly. Some part of my brain tells me it couldn’t have been too far, seeing how we aren’t flash-frozen to death. The insides of my nose itch. I cup my hands and cover my mouth with folded palms, breathing the way my therapist showed me: one-two-three-four IN, hold for four, one-two-three-four-five-six OUT. One-two-three-four IN, hold for four, one-two-three-four-five-six OUT. I do this over and over again until the blood rushing in my ears slows down and feeling returns to my extremities. I'm still shivering.
“I want us to live together,” Chris said, emerging from the first weekend we spent entangled in each other. I agreed, on the condition we kept separate rooms. The Storm Spirit forbids premarital sex. Your body is my temple, she had whispered to me, keep it clean. Chris wasn’t too happy about the condition, but he had never had a girlfriend before and was willing to compromise.
My sister was upset when she learned that I was living with Chris. “You let a stalker move in with you?”
She didn’t understand. We are in love. We are two of a kind, meant for each other, designed for each other, enough for each other, like the doll-couple inside a snowglobe.
I run down the stairs to the front door. I turn the doorknob and push it. It won't budge. I run to the window and slide the glass an inch, only to find it walled by the packed snow. White icy smoke-like wisps rise from the surface. I look all around me: all the windows of the house are the same. There’s no way anyone can leave.
Chris doesn’t seem bothered. He’s humming the theme song to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I’ll be there for youuuu...
I chant under my breath. O Storm Spirit, pardon my foolishness, show me the way to undo this.
I stand still and listen for the spirit to answer me. She’s a fickle one, only blessing me when fancy strikes. Sometimes, she demands a sacrifice. Sometimes she says I need to listen to my heart more. To disregard my therapist and the drug-peddling psychiatrist who want nothing more than to see me become one of their rule-following robots. Where is the magic in that?
“We will be together forever and ever,” Chris said the day he moved in, two huge plastic bags under his armpits, one canvas bag slung across his chest. There was a gleam in his beautiful gray eyes.
Our lives quickly intertwined. I didn’t tell Chris about my magic at first. I didn’t want to scare him away. Only my sister knew, and I know she only pretended to believe me. I planned to tell him once I was sure he was fully, completely, irrevocably in love with me. It’s not that I didn’t believe him when he said he would never leave me, but I have heard it before. People are defective, like leaves with holes. Their promises slip right through, like rain.
One night, Chris saw me in meditation. “What are you doing?” he asked, his voice uncertain. I opened my eyes and floated down from the ceiling. I kept calm. The Storm Spirit had spoken to me. She’d told me it was safe to tell Chris. “You should know,” I said, “that I am a disciple of the Storm Spirit of the Storm and the Rain. There’s powerful magic in me, but you shouldn’t be afraid since I love you, and you have nothing to fear from me.” For a second, I thought Chris doubted me—his face contorted through a range of shapes, a strange look in his eyes. But finally, he settled into a huge smile. “I knew it!” he said. “I knew there was something in you, some raw power that draws me!” His face shone with delight, and he came forward and took my hands in his hands and kissed them.
That was one year and three months ago. The secret brought us closer. It became something we shared together. Sometimes, when I couldn’t control my moods, a storm uprooted a tree somewhere, a hail storm killed several small farm animals. But Chris took care of me. I made him promise if the police ever came knocking at our door, he would not let them take me away. He said as long as he was alive and able, he would protect me, come what may.
Water. I suddenly wonder if the loud bang that had woken me up was a water pipe bursting. I hold my breath as I turn the tap of the kitchen sink. Nothing.
“No water,” I say to Chris.
“That’s no worry, baby. Don’t you remember you can make it rain indoors?”
Yes, I think, I can. But some part of me wants to fix this unseasonal weather and go back to a world where July meant the smell of sunburnt grass.
I close my eyes and try to pray. I think of all the movies where people had to survive something like this. I can only remember ones with tribes lost in cold deserts, slowly losing their minds, devolving into full-blown madness, attacking each other, clawing each other’s eyes out.
Think, think. I say to myself. There must be something, some wisdom...some spell...
I hear the spirit now. Embrace it, my child, she says. This is what you wanted.
“Stop with that worried face and come dance with me,” Chris says.
My therapist once told me that our relationship was ‘codependent.’ I looked the word up online. It’s when “a person’s thinking and behavior is organized around another person.” I thought that was a pretty stupid thing to say. How can being devoted to each other be a bad thing? My therapist would be lucky to find a love like ours. I wanted to stop seeing her after that, but my sister said she’d cut off my allowance if I didn’t go. Just like the time she threatened to discontinue my Netflix subscription. “I don’t know how to take care of you if you refuse to take care of yourself,” she screamed. It's not as if watching tv for three days without sleep has ever killed anyone. If she really cares about me, why does she keep trying to keep me from the things I love?
I decided to grin and bear it (again). It’s only a matter of a year until I finish design school. Then I will be beholden to no one. (Except Chris. I’ll move the earth for Chris.)
An image, strange and distorted, floats into my mind. Of me being alone in this house, passed out drunk on the kitchen table, Chris’s voice saying: Crazy, delusional bitch! You need to be in an asylum! My power has finally overwhelmed him. Because he can’t bear the glory of my magic. In the shadowy darkness, there’s a figure banging the front door shut. A thought splinters and takes a different direction, unbidden: I think of the girl I have seen him with, the one who drops him home from work sometimes. A cold wind blows from the eastern window, bloated with rain. The image flickers and trembles, like an old-timey black and white movie. Tiny tremors ripple on my skin, my breath catches in my throat, unable to flow.
I bite my knuckles to snap myself out of that fever dream. Chris would never do that to me.
We will be happy always.
We will be together always.
So what if we are snowed in. We have each other.
We will keep each other warm.