You made me love winter.
You made me love watching snow softly fall past the dashboard, in a different world when everything was quiet. You held my hand because of the cold, and traced circles. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” shuffled on, and you would begin your terrible singing to me. You grabbed your phone and sang into it, as if performing onstage. It was really bad, so I told you to “staaaap,” but you didn’t, you just kept smiling. I laughed so hard my head fell back, and my eyes squinted real small.
When we were done, we drove back to my house to watch your favorite movies. I’d listen to you talk, drinking in your words, watching your pupils expand. The way your face lit up when talking about specific shots or scenes made my love grow not only for you, but for your interest as well. I never knew I’d obtain more passions than I already had.
It wasn’t long until I found myself using words or phrases I only ever heard from you. I also found myself laughing or smiling like an idiot whenever I caught myself in the act. We traded habits, both good and bad. You were becoming a part of me, and I let it happen.
For the first time in a while, winter was my favorite season again. I had good memories replacing the old, damaged ones. Like the time it snowed so much you made me stay in the passenger seat when arriving at my house.
“Don’t move, stay right here.” You turned off the ignition.
“Just trust me.”
I wasn’t sure what you had in mind until I saw you shuffling over to my side of the car. You opened my door and motioned your hands to lift me.
“I know how to walk,” I laughed.
“Yeah, but you’re gonna get all wet.”
“C’mon, just let me be cute.”
I couldn’t stop staring at your cheesy smile. I thought the situation was dumb, but let you continue anyway. You picked me up bridal-style, and I wrapped my arms around you, pulling myself closer into your warmth. You smelled of cologne and gum, and I never wanted it to go away. We trudged through the snow, laughing so hard you nearly dropped me.
Moments like that helped me forget about those winter nights with my mom. The nights she’d pretend our family was still perfect. When she’d scream about how my dad was Satan himself. Or when she called the cops on my brother and me for not behaving “well enough.” Divorce makes people crazy. But time with you made me forget the mess and focus on the good given to me.
Months later, I should have noticed.
I should have noticed those three words becoming more and more distant. I should have noticed the way you talked about her¾the same way you used to talk about me. I guess I was too busy falling to pay any attention.
Once I put the pieces together, I asked. You denied. Said my jealousy was showing.
I should have known better when the excuses flooded in:
“Sorry, I can’t. Sky needs me tonight, family stuff.”
“We still on for the movies?”
“Sorry, I have a lot of homework. Maybe tomorrow?”
“It’s been a while, do you want to talk tonight?”
“I would love to, but I’m actually about to go to bed.” When in reality, you were going out.
From then on, I’d overanalyze every moment, every sign. I did everything I could to save it, but in the end, I knew I wasn’t enough. Even now, I sometimes wonder if I ever was.
I figured when it ended I would have felt prepared. I mean, I knew it was coming. Instead, I felt heavy and empty all at the same time. I was drowning above the water. When you left, you took all the simple joys with you. You stole parts of me I didn’t know existed until now.
During the day I occupied myself with anything and everything. At school I actually participated, volunteered to speak, and was the leader in groups. At work I gave my everything, not allowing myself to slack off for one second. I knew that if I did, my mind would wander too far. I put all of my energy into the things I loved. I hung out with family and friends, hoping they could help fill the void.
At night, when I lay in bed, looking in the spot you used to be, I felt alone. I was trapped in my thoughts with no way to escape. The only way I got through was by accepting them and imagining a world where nothing was wrong with me.
I remember the next winter, riding in the passenger seat of my dad’s car. We were on our way to my grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner. It was one of the first moments my mind wasn’t constantly wrapped around the idea of you. The side of my head pressed against the cool glass, watching flakes fly past us. We drove along cookie-cutter houses decorated perfectly for the event.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple building a lumpy snowman in their front yard. The girl smiled so wide at the boy, you could hardly see her face. And when she wasn’t looking, I’m sure he admired the way her hair fell just below her shoulders. Or the certain way she shook when she got cold. He was in love with all her little things, and she probably always knew.
I looked back toward the road in front of me, listening to the music that flowed through my headphones. That one song you used to sing to me shuffled on, and I immediately skipped it, trying to erase you from my memory.
You made me hate winter.
Victoria Barney is a creative writing student at Columbia College Chicago. She has been an editor for Hair Trigger and is always looking for new experiences within the writing world. Additional information can be found at https://nerdfightertori.wixsite.com/mysite.