Subtle, but undeniable
Some words make me smile at how perfectly they capture the essence of the world in a single breath. Crisp. The crisp air makes every breath feel sharp and intense.
It isn’t windy — wind refuses to be disregarded. To be ignored. Crisp air is still, but it pushes back. It forces you to solemnly remember Newton’s Laws of Motion as you move about the world and only settles when you’re at rest. This air stays with you; you can almost feel the tension release from your skin when you go back indoors. To some extent, it’s relieving to feel something more than the numbness of the cold. Something more than the absence of feeling. But with this relief comes the world as it is: no filters, no anesthesia. The crispness of your life, and the tension that comes with it.
Last year was the first time I truly felt this. I was staying in New York with friends and embraced this sort of weather. I became semi-known as the person who doesn’t get cold, like an eighth-grade boy who woefully wishes to prove his masculinity, wearing gym shorts and a tank top in 30-degree weather and swearing that he isn’t cold. But the difference is that I get cold. I just don’t feel it.
Crisp air makes my skin feel endless, unable to tell where my body ends and harsh reality begins. All I can notice are my fingertips. Which seems weird. When you're cold, your body moves blood away from your extremities to conserve heat. You would think that, given this is the case, I would notice my heart beating, or my lungs taking in the air. But I don’t.
All I can notice are my fingertips.
Normally, I feel everything.
The pain of my backpack pressing down on my shoulders, and the pain of knowing that I chose this bag because it was smaller. The sharp jab of “Who takes the elevator to go to the second floor?” The aching of joints with the slightest of movements, and my legs swinging clumsily forward as I move about.
I escape some of these feelings with music — music that has the energy I don’t. This way, walking turns into a sort of dance, stumbling through the motions. Sheila Black said it best in her poem “What You Mourn”:
the body, which made walking difficult
and running practically impossible,
except as a kind of dance, a sideways looping
like someone about to fall
I am in pain; I feel everything.
Normally, I carry this pain with me everywhere I go. But with the crisp air, I feel refreshingly numb. Every gasp of air breathes life into my lungs, and every step is filled with purpose. And I know, when I go inside, it’ll be over; the facade will drop and I will be reminded of my painful mortality. But this is one feeling that I can choose to ignore.
For the briefest moment in time, I will be here. Alone with my thoughts, and my fingertips, and a smile slowly forming as I am reminded how perfectly some words capture the essence of the world with a single intense breath.