#431: What’s Left in the Snow

January 28th, 2015

Someone left a table of books out for passersby.

“The Witching Hour” by Anne Rice. “Bethlehem Road Murder” by Batya Gur. Paperbacks by Ursula Hegl, I.J. Parker, Margaret Erskine, Lawrence Durrell — all on a little sea-colored folding table propped knee-height in the snow and dark and cutting cold.

Things get left in the cold and dark. Things get abandoned to the cold. As the evening urges toward night and the world convinces itself 5:30 is an acceptable time for the sky to be black, things get left behind.

Stray bits. Some forgotten. Some abandoned on purpose, urban jetsam as people scurried to warmth.

Two votive candles sat by a tree.

Long, thin glass tubes advertising saints of dubious historicity sat stuck in ice and flakes by a tree pooching through a fence. The little metal-wrapped candle bits usually tossed in colored glass at romantic restaurants scattered around, like spent shell casings in the cold and white.

Cigarette butts. Dog turds. The odd perfect oak leaf crystallized since fall.

Christmas lights strung around the curb separating St. Helen’s short green space from the sidewalk. A string of bulbs barely skirting the ground. The light snow burying some to create soft glowing patches in the white.

Footprints in the snow — person, dog, rabbit. Bird tracks left in once-wet concrete, what? Months? Years ago?

People are left too.

Bikers. Smokers. Dog walkers and bag-laden pedestrians who trudge trudge trudge through the crunching winter to get wherever it is they’re headed.

A street away is Western. Bars and street lamps and the long, glistening reflection of headlights on wet concrete. The Doppler wail of cars whooshing by. Distant sirens.

The cold and dark couple to cast the illusion of loneliness on a world no more scarce and distant now than in bright spring. There would be a smatter more pedestrians. No fewer cars. The dog turds would be as plentiful and the books on the sea-colored table only slightly more picked over.

It’s easy to feel alone in the snow, but it’s not true for me at least. A block from friends. A street corner away from pleasant memories. A turn around the bend from that place where it’s like, “Hey, two-for-one tacos!”

A street person babbled at me at Einstein Bros that afternoon. The bagel shop let him sit and babble in the corner. When I sat within 20 feet, he smiled and galumphed up to me and offered me candy.

I wondered where the snow left him, as I wandered through Ukrainian Village.

My disillusion was momentary and wrong. I had places to go and warmth to receive. I was a tourist in this wind and white and icy grip.

Some things get left in the snow. I had to remind myself I was not one of them.

Comment on this story

Another tale of winter (with rabbit)

What's this?

You are currently reading #431: What’s Left in the Snow by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • Get Stories by Email

  • Chicago Corruption Walking Tour

    Join the email list for tour dates and info.