• by Robert P. Barsanti •
Things are getting ready to happen out of sight. The world is sodden in April: the snow melts, the rain drips, the fog beads along the wires. Blind white roots push out and break the frozen ground. The daffodils have pushed through the dead branches and leaves to emerge triumphant amid the mud.
The realtor and I stand in the backyard. She carries papers that I need to sign, bankers need to approve, and another dozen people in ties and sensible shoes need to stamp. We keep getting stuck in the mud of the backyard, and I can’t ignore the trash. The blackberry bush grabbed the paper out of the air and impaled it onto its thorns. Wrappers, bags, and thirty-year-old beer cans collapsed in the brown and gray landscape.
One gets comfortable in the winter. The traffic slows to a trickle, the trees clatter against the roof, and you wait for the weather to liven things up. The ground freezes into one hard scab, and everything holds stock still for months. In the winter, nothing grows or changes. We all lock ourselves into the formal feeling of ice and cold and bright unblinking stars. Time passes in anesthetized darkness, the water locks up, and the world holds still for months.
Winter has served me well. I have reached an age when I can appreciate a gray sky and a stopped clock. I have floated on the water and soared deep into a gray sky. I have eaten from the cast-off scallop shells and dropped crabs onto the wharves. I have rented out the lee of waves and leased the dark side of the dunes.
Now the wind has shifted — a breeze built from the south, followed by rain and warmth and several days of sunlight. Spring erupts like a new tooth. The flowers split the frozen ground, and the trees are brushed with the red. The grass has begun to twitch through the afternoon, each organic jerk scratches the air.
The realtor has exhausted her pitch. If I stand on the porch and face west, it repeats itself to me. “Look at the view. The two of you can sit here and watch the sun set over the moors. The kitchen can hold a hockey team while you roast a pig. The fireplace heats the whole house. And look how great the master bedroom is.”
The house was designed for a comic book version of the man I could have been. The doors shut without scraping along the floors, the windows keep the draft out, and the long windows open out into pines and pale blue. In the clear cold of February, a certain slant of light devours the afternoon with terrible speed.
To stand in an empty house is to see what could be; the future teases me. The kitchen is large, the dining room small, and the study just large enough for a desk and a Christmas tree. The house will only host the smallest of parties. It does not have double sinks in the master bedroom, walk-in closets, or a lap pool in the back. However, on a clear night, I could see an old me sitting in the cold and witnessing the island night. The moon rises from the water and slowly erases the constellations while the five-second sweep from Sankaty Light sweeps the walls. It’s a house for birds, for bats, and for dogs.
I stand at the door. A house is work. It’s replacing the roof and remortgaging and coating the windows with fabric. It’s watching the paycheck disappear into the wood and the mud. It’s taking all of the maps of the future and throwing them into dumpster along one highway. The horizon shrinks into a window.
The realtor edges up behind me and clears her throat.
“We can reschedule, if you would like…”
Which she wouldn’t. She had hovered around me like a cupid, shooting arrow after arrow into my wintery back. She had a commission coming, along with three children, a little league game in an hour, and burgers for the grill.
It would be fun to walk away. It would be great to just tear up the papers as if it were a graduation speech in the hands of some mohawked high school mind, and then throw it into the air. The paper bits would fall as if a snow squall had hit for a moment. I could run away back into the world of winter. Freeze the mud, kill the daffodils, and chill the sky; the sun can climb back down from the sky, and the world could go back into its shell.
The world pushes you into this. It looks at you with expectant eyes and waits for you to sign the papers and sit down. The world of lawn-mowing, mulch, and wallpaper sits on the porch. They all stare and wait. The wasps orbit in the spring breeze.
We are afraid of who we may become. We are afraid of the expectations and the power that we all have. Winter is easy; we have nothing to do but endure and survive. Every day spent in the lee of the wind is a day to the good. Spring is hard. The world moves and grows and challenges us with change. The snow and the ice will not return; the world is green, mud-luscious, and wonderful. The sun burns bright for us—we have to accept our own fire.
That night, I sat on my new porch with a cold beverage. The air sang with the sound of peepers and the far off roll of the spring surf. Let the world warm.