The next month, february, was just plain cold… well, freezing… The locals said this winter was about normal. Even the snow-storms that blew through, that was normal, too. Well, I don’t like cold anyway, but snow… I didn’t like that stuff at all. But windy cold weather did make me so thankful for this thick coat that had fuzzy stuff around the hands and the thick hood. But honestly, that february I just kept spending so much time trying to stay warm, well as warm as possible.
The first snowstorm left the most beautiful coating of white over the desert. And the cactus plants looked so strange with snow piled on. But aside from that, the snow left the desert looking nice, for once. And I did go out briefly that evening. It was very cold, and the wind was driving the snow pretty good. Someone said it was dry snow. I just laughed (which hurt). That made as much sense as dry heat to me. But that evening, for the brief time I was outside in the snow… It was just so quiet! I heard the wind occasionally, but I guess snow does not make much sound coming down, and it muffles most other noises. I couldn’t even hear the dull noise from the interstate. It was just so totally quiet. Well, I didn’t stay out for long, it was just too cold. I was quickly back inside, took my coat off, and wrapped up in a blanket. I could tell the heater was having problems, because it never shut off all night. I turned my computer on, so it could help the heater out.
Well, I worked on my journal that night, too. I would do that at odd times, when I felt, well, inspired I think is the word. That didn’t happen as often as I would have hoped. I am not sure how Kacey does an entry each day. There is just not much going on… Not much seems to be changing on a day to day basis. And keeping warm, like I said, that is my first priority. Especially after walking home in the freezing cold after a long day at the Diner…
But the next morning after the first snowstorm, I woke up cold. It was a while before I got up. And it was hard to tell what time it was from the sun; I couldn’t see any evidence of it, except that it wasn’t dark. The sky out the window looked a uniform gray. The heater was still running, but I could feel this icy wind blowing in under the front door. Well, I had to do something about that. A nice, thick bath towel stopped most of the wind. I laughed when I put that there; without any hot water, it was way too cold to even think about a shower, today especially. But, with that towel in place, my little bedroom and couch did slowly begin to wam back up.
But I got up on time that morning, and braced myself as I headed out the door for my morning trip to the Diner. And, I carefully put that bath towel back in front of the bottom of the door, but from the outside, after I locked the door. I hoped it wouldn’t blow away (which it did…) After three steps, I realized I was walking through maybe about a foot of snow. That was cold… And, I couldn’t walk as fast. I was pretty sure I would be late. The walk to the Diner wasn’t as cold; I was working pretty hard trudging through a foot of snow! I noticed it was hard to see where the road actually was. Then I realized… There were no tire marks even. Nobody had driven on this road, probably since last night… I just sighed.
I did make it to the Diner, and I was late, but at least it was a little warm inside the Diner, thanks to that scary gas heater (running constantly). I noticed right away the cook wasn’t there. Well, we needed a cook to even function, unless customers just wanted soda. I waited until early afternoon, I think. I sat in one of the booths by the window, sipped a soda and watched the clouds. Well, it was getting darker, not brighter. My first customer pulled up! Well, it was Delores. Of course we hugged as soon as she was inside. She smiled. “Maude, just go home. I only braved driving in the snow to come tell you. Edna’s rule was if there was snow on the ground, the Diner would be closed. Edna didn’t like snow very much.” Wow, Edna and I were so alike… Delores thought a minute, then added “Nobody in their right mind will be out driving today, anyway.” I smiled, then thanked Delores for not being in her right mind just to come let me know. She laughed and we hugged again. Delores is such a nice friend.
Delores asked if I wanted a ride back to my house. I had enough sense, at least, to send her straight to her home. Walking in snow was one thing, but driving… Delores was soon on her way, driving haphazardly down the empty street, and was gone. I locked everything up and walked home in the snow. The trip to my house wasn’t as bad because the wind was behind me. I stayed nice and warm, well ok, not too freezing cold. And I had to find my bath-towel of warmth when I got home. It was around behind the house, up against a cactus. I shook it out, let myself inside, then put that towel back along the bottom of the door. It took a while for the heater to recover, but it finally did.
I watched it snow some more that night, so I didn’t even bother getting up in time for work the next day. I slept in. And when I woke up later that next morning, I made sort of a discovery. After starting up the Diner without Edna, so many things happened that really hurt, and I could only function by pushing everything away. I think that February, everything just got frozen, maybe an arm’s length away. I spent a lot of time and energy staying warm, and maybe that… I knew all that stuff was there, and every so often, one or more things would rattle around out there. But otherwise, it seemed my life was a little more peaceful, well if I was warm. I think that is why I could actually sleep in that day. I worked on my journal some more. I was just having more and more difficulty… Maybe my whole life was frozen into a huge mess of food-service zomby-ism. Not very much was changing, not very much was happening.
Two days later, the snow was patchy, with some of the drab, tan, ragged ground showing through in places. I went to work. The cook came too, and we had quite a few customers, even though there was snow on the ground. Everyone said that most folks had spent too many days cooped up in their houses, and they just needed to get out. Just that picture rattled a bunch of my pain around. Home should be amazing… for others, anyway. I doubt I would ever…
That wasn’t the only storm. There were two more, with similar results, a few days when the Diner was closed. And the cook agreed with Delores, that is what Edna had told him. If you couldn’t see the ground anywhere, the Diner would be closed. Well, that was my rule now, too. And I did poke at my journal some during those next two storms, but with the same results, and for the same reasons. Kacey never said what to do if you run out of things to put in your journal. And I kept forgetting to ask Delores to ask her for me.
And I think the salesmorons were cold, too. For the most part, they just left me alone. I occasionally got the “Hey what are–” question. Yes, that’s right, I was walking away by that time. And, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one trying to… I turned around quickly, and glared at him. I guess that was enough to stop him, that time anyway.
Well, one afternoon… It was cold, just after most of the snow had melted, and a tuesday afternoon. We were not very busy. One of the locals I think, a high school student, came quietly in, and sat in a window booth. She just wanted a soda, and I brought her a cup and told her it was free today. She smiled, but I… Something inside me knew she was, something was troubling her, a lot. She had already sat back down with her soda. I walked and got mine, then sat right next to her. “Hey… Are you ok?” I asked quietly. For me, this was all new territory. It felt that way, anyway. But it felt like she needed, something.
She was quickly crying on my shoulder. I hugged her of course, and was soon crying with her. I couldn’t just ignore her feelings. After a little while, she calmed down and apologized. But maybe I knew… “Please tell me… I just want to help.” That sounded like something Edna would say, or maybe I remembered her saying she had said that to another local girl, I don’t know. Well, this girl had a hard time talking. And I didn’t understand everything she was trying to say, and she patiently explained some parts to me when I asked. Well, I was appalled. Some other guy from school had slept with her, and she was pregnant, and the guy wanted nothing to do with her, with she and her baby. That alone sounded so wrong to me. But, everyone else around her seemed to be saying… That is what appalled me. Well, it sounded all kinds of wrong, as Edna would say. I was pretty sure Edna would agree with me in this instance. And I did remember that amazing lady Dawn and her cute artist daughter Camille…
I didn’t think long, because I just felt… I said slowly to the girl “I don’t think your baby should have to suffer for what that terrible boy did.” That was all I said. I was pretty sure that is what Edna would say, and honestly I felt exactly that way, too. I am not sure why, but I spoke my mind. Right after I finished saying that sentence, I was immediately afraid she would burst into tears and run out of the Diner, and cry hysterically for hours…
Instead, she immediately smiled… then she hugged me tightly, and cried softly, still smiling. “You said… what my heart is telling me… You are the first adult who has… Thank you.” We were standing, hugging a few minutes later. Then she turned to leave. “We will be back” she said with a smile. Then she walked out into the cold and was quickly gone.
Now I wanted to cry hysterically for hours. My head wouldn’t allow that of course. I sat back down in that same booth, and watched the clouds sail past, while tears fell slowly down my cheeks, onto the table. “Yes, Edna, you were right… about me staying here… doing… this…” This was excruciating… doing what Edna had done for years, but if… helping others… cope… I thought this, and wanted to cry more, but I couldn’t. I didn’t even know this girl’s name, and so had no idea how to find out.
But I also realized, my insides reminded me… I could do that, help her, only because the cold had frozen all that pain and anguish, all my pain and anguish, comfortably away… for now…
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.