The streetlights on Market Street make the bellies of the clouds smolder like the orange glow from a blast furnace. Kids stagger down the sidewalks looking for the steamy embrace, or anesthetizing buzz that is surely to be found in the next bar. But I have given up my search and turned for home.
This icy wind numbs my cheeks, wiggles past my scarf, and slithers down my back. My shirt, still soaked with sweat from the jungle heat of the bar, clings to my skin.
I lean into the wind, and hunch my shoulders to keep out the cold. My hands thrust deep into the pockets of the wool Air Force surplus overcoat. I must look like some French soldier following Napoleon back across the windswept expanse of Russia, keeping step with the beating of his heart, as he longs for a touch of a soft hand against his cheek.
Crossing the bridge to Fall Island my boots slip on the icy sidewalk. I catch myself against the railing, and peer down into the midnight blue of the water as it breaks free from beneath the ice, and rushes over the weir.
I turn aside from the sidewalk, and walk along the river until I come to the edge of the dam. The icy water looks like a ribbon of glass, before it shatters into foam. It churns in whorls, and pauses, before crawling back beneath its blanket of ice, to slumber for another dozen miles until the next dam.
I turn my back to the wind and walk out onto the concrete weir, standing inches from the torrent as it spills past me. Snowflakes swirl by, disappearing into the dark water.
The minutes pass like water as I stand there. Straining my eyes to see into the impenetrable blackness of the water as it flows past. It is as opaque as blue steel.
If I stepped into the water who would know? It would be summer before my body floated to the surface, and settled into the cattails of a backwater downstream, my hair a tangle of grass, the faded blueness of my skin melting away like an ice cube on a hot day.
Would my spirit continue downstream until it met the St. Lawrence, and passed like a cod into the icy Atlantic?
I will not find the answer on this night.
I turn away.
I am too sober, and the wind is too cold.
I pull my collar tight against the wind, and walk home alone.