The Cold


Beautiful, but only from behind glass.
If I learned one thing over the holidays, it’s that I’ve become an utter wimp in the face of the cold. Real cold. Chicago cold. The kind of cold that even the thermometers lie about: sure I’m telling you that it’s -3, but it’s actually -23. Thanks, wind chill!

How cold is it in Chicago? Well, let me put it like this: when we tried to leave, the plane couldn’t take off for forty minutes because the lavatory tank was frozen and couldn’t drain. Shit be frozen. They had to bring out a heater to thaw it in order to drain it in order to take off. And there may-or-may-not have still been frost on the wings when we landed in LA.

It’s gotten colder since then. I can tell because all my Chicago friends are posting memes about how cold it is, which means it may be approaching a temperature that is normally only measured in Kelvin. I keep reminding myself of this kind of cold when I feel tempted to lament feeling chilly as I walk to the bus wearing my light woolen jacket and scarf in the dewy Los Angeles morning.

Cold like that, when breathing hurts and your eyes start to water and you wear six layers of insulation just to walk from the house to the car (and then die of the heat once the heater defrosts)  makes me realize how glad I am to be indoors. To not be homeless. I can’t imagine being homeless in that kind of cold. And when I say “I can’t imagine”, what I mean is- “I’m afraid to even think about being homeless in that kind of cold”. It’s something that should happen to no one. But it does. And it could happen to anyone. Even me. I’m aware that things like homelessness or hunger or addiction or crime are not thinks that I’ve avoided because of my own cleverness and hard work, but rather through luck and grace. I’m not better than anybody, I’m just lucky and fortunate. I recognize this fact, but I’m still trying to teach myself how to take the next step and extend this luck and fortune to people who need it. 

The truth is, that the Next step scares me. First, it involves seeing others who are in need and, in seeing them, remembering that it could be me. So that’s intimidating. Then, I have to talk to a stranger. And, I mean, it’s not like the first twenty years of my life were steeped in Stranger-Danger, introversion, and social awkwardness, or anything.  And then, I have to find out what they need or offer something they might not want, or discover that they need something that I can’t help them with, or risk getting taken advantage of. 

It’s easy to see why I sometimes do nothing, even though I feel the weight of it on my conscience. I hope to learn how to be better about this. I don’t yet know how, but I want to learn. 

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 3, 2018.

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