There’s a small spot in the woods where it was done. Your family swept away the leaves and dropped you when the cold swiveled in like the white blood of your mother’s bad moment with birth, and ever since you’ve wandered missing that spot only as an animal given life by a slow process can.

In the strange homes of winter other families are eating full feasts in the silence of warm lights and prepared movements. Their clean windows receive the sound of fine china with the high fidelity of tinnient holidays—was this the town?

Standing outside their windows at night watching the youngest daughter’s familial feet under the table kneading the demons of this good season—she sees through the white curtain the vagary of your face and wonders what she’ll inherit from her father’s dense cut through the world. She knows it now only as the people to whom she’s been unkind.

You’ve arrived.

…Where strangers freeze solid on the streets and the snow piles up around them. You talk to the frozen strangers about finding a place for the night where there’s an extra chair to leave free for a friend who still might arrive. Pump the town’s gas into your car and prepare to leave as the only road out becomes blocked and already the first layer of sleep descends.

Between those hoary sheets there is a woman who gives herself outside of language, her freshly-leapt image pained across the long winter night by a distant relative who still brings meaning to the cave. In the morning you’re in her world stripped of words and reduced to living for hundreds of years in consort with simple motions that bring forth all you desire. At night you dream of home, having forgotten how to get there.

She will help you. But in the same breath she says you won’t be the same person you were. She gives you small gifts which will be lost one by one on the journey back and everything depends on the last one you hold: The oval mirror bordered by gold. The dried flower from the deep woods that still smells sweet. The long rouged kiss she’s made with her sex on a piece of rice paper. Everything depends on where you stand with the frozen strangers when they begin to thaw and walk again. You begin to thaw and walk again.

You’re emptying your pockets before going to bed. Among the coins and keys to old houses long abandoned there is a smooth innocuous stone, light in the hand with a hole as if a worm has burrowed into it, eaten its center, and gone, and you don’t know where it came from.

There is the dream about a woman who is silent and free and the dream about a small spot on the earth where it was done. And you desperately want to go there.

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About JLSchneider

JLSchneider is a carpenter and an adjunct professor of English at a small community college in upstate New York.