Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax
{the far wall of the world}
  robert kaye

Lying in bed, the quality of light bleeding under the curtains indicates the arrival of fresh snow, filling me with excitement and dread. Extreme weather remains rare in this unprepared southern latitude, impossible to distinguish from a freak of nature, as though the crystalline structure of snowflakes has already altered. Here, snow demands a choice between war and surrender.

Staying home means another day watching children liberated from their education rocket down slopes on trashcan lids. Or I can walk through the white cathedral of the park, joining in random snowball fights. But I know files have accumulated on my desk to avalanche conditions, the boss ticking off names of those who fail to attempt the trek against the list of inevitable layoffs.

“You’re making too much of this,” I say, still in bed, voice dampened by drifts of blankets. “Weather changes. We adapt. You’re already late.”

I squander fifteen minutes chiseling ice from the windshield, shoveling an exit strategy before reversing into fading ruts. All-weather radials spin like false advertising up the hill, body English guiding the car around burial mounds of vehicles awaiting the archeology of spring.

I crest the rise and peek through snow falling plumb as a bus materializes stage left, inches beyond my front bumper. I swear at the driver for adding the insult of delay to my near-death experience. Adrenaline sweat prickles my upper lip.

The bus doors unfold, revealing a solid rank of passengers bundled in long coats and stocking caps. Nobody steps off, allowing no one to board. The doors re-fold and the bus wallows off, leaving the gaggle on the pavement to prioritize whom to eat first.

“Poor bastards,” I laugh, a lone wolf with a superior chance of survival, fishtailing onto the arterial. In the distance, chains flog a wheel—crunch-crunch-thwang! crunch-crunch-thwang!—then nothing. Lenses of ice distort each half-sucked lollipop of a road sign, the descending grade indicating the point of no return: the freeway entrance. Time coagulates to slurry.

The defroster kicks in at last, revealing an enormous white SUV wandering across three lanes, the driver hiked out his open window to the thigh. He wields a long-handled ice scraper against his windshield, presumably steering with a foot, cruise control engaged. I laugh and take mental note to include this in the personal mythology of How I Got in Today.

An eighteen-wheeler pulls out to pass, blasting his horn and careening across my path, forcing me to swerve. I narrowly avoid a snow bank studded with metal debris. Rage obliterates caution and plunges the pedal to the floor as I picture the truck tumbling wheels up, snapping a guardrail like a finish line ribbon. Me pulling away with a maniacal laugh: a clear demonstration of who freights the bigger set of cajones.

Instead, my car drifts sideways, a card tossed by the invisible hand of physics. On the lip of eternity, my tires bite permafrost. I resurface into the world of traction and pull over, heart revving.

“Maybe we have underestimated everything,” I say, words echoing like a bad PA in an airport bathroom.

Cars whizz past in the trench of the freeway, each volunteer in the nameless crusade a projectile in a cosmic snowball fight, impelled toward the far wall of the world, oblivious to what will happen when they strike.

I step out of the car to begin the long walk home and join the resistance.