Another trunk sized branch laden with ice broke free and hissed through the darkness on its way down. It sounded like a chandelier hitting the ground as ice exploded like crystal onto the leaves nearby.
Day 3 of an ice storm here in Kentucky and it has taken its toll. Granted, our “ice storm” would be considered a light dusting in places like Minnesota, but it is still enough to nearly shut down life in Lexington.
The trees aren’t the only things taking a pounding. Having sat inside for the last few days, my sanity is coming unraveled just like the city’s power grid. Outside, my truck sits encapsulated in a solid block of impenetrable ice, just daring me to move it. Just like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, I feel myself growing softer. If I had a mirror I would have leaped up in delirium and punched it by now.
The voices in my head finally peaked in a shrill chorus and in a moment of madness I found myself crunching out into the deserted streets around midnight last night. Always go where the action is. Unfortunately at midnight in an iced-over suburbia on foot, that is easier said than done.
I made a beeline for a wooded park a few blocks away. The freezing rain mixed with sleet dripped off of my Gortex hood and reminded me of cold Army field training exercises. Neighbors peered at me suspiciously through frosted windows wondering who the madman was crunching and sliding down their gray street. Sirens and ice clumps falling from trees were my soundtrack as I passed abandoned cars. With my bulky shell I looked like a spaceman walking across the moon.
The grass was frozen as solid as the street, you couldn’t tell where one stopped and the other started. My boots wouldn’t even break through with a stomp, so I did more or less a controlled slide all the way to the woods. I passed only one other human being, a nocturnal control-freak frantically shoveling her driveway in the rain, trying desperately to restore order to her little universe.
I stood at the edge of the woods, trying to determine which part of the white landscape was the trail and which part hid a small creek. Even at midnight, the city lights gave the sky a nuclear glow and I could see without a torch – God bless light pollution. Just beyond where I stood, invisible artillery shells shattered trees Bastogne style.
Crunch crunch crunch
I turned around and two young girls were walking up the road behind me. They looked like teenage ghosts in the glow. I assumed they had sacrificed another car to the road, but when they got near enough I could see that they had walking sticks.
They walked straight up to me despite the fact that I looked like the abominable rapist in my gloves, Gortex hood, and bulk standing there in the dark woods. We exchanged greetings – three lost souls on a mad night.
“Hello! How can people stay inside with all this going on out here?”
I agreed. They were probably both 16 but their eyes saw more than people twice their age. I could see their energy burning bright in the dim light. Unlike so many others, their fascination with life hadn’t been snuffed by dull expectations yet. They were both planning to travel to South America as soon as they finished school. Like tortured souls, they shared a cigarette and didn’t waste words. Future vagabonds.
We stood respectfully listening to the chorus of trees giving up years of branches and decided it might not be the best time to walk the dark path through the woods. I agreed, the sleet had now turned into a proper rain and my gortex had given up. Suddenly I was wet and very cold.
We parted ways, walking in opposite directions on a lonely night. Everything happens for a reason, and no doubt all three of us were wondering what had brought us together to share a moment in the ice. I believe that every person we meet leaves something inside of us. Perhaps I’ll be a small encouragement to keep their vagabonding flame burning years from now.
Without passing another soul, I wound my way back home and dripped through the door, sheding wet clothes as I went. I was gone only an hour, but had certainly accomplished my mission. Life is good.