This is where you come to hide in plain sight: halfway up a flight of mahogany iron, on the half-frozen banks of the slough, a word still new to you to which you cling anyway, suspended between stream and river and more real to you than the Mississippi, snaking a half-mile away. Your jeans are the same shade as the drifts heaped in every direction; your hair is the same shade as the stairs beneath you. Blend, curl into yourself, hook chin to chest, look sideways into the hillside.
Afternoon sunlight. A radiance through the stand on the opposite bank, startling the snow into iridescence, sequins embedded wherever the light touches. Promises and gold. There’s a science to it, but you’ve forgotten. Enough to sit here, with the leftover leaves, butterfly yellow on their sacrificial stalks. Enough to pretend you are the last one left on this patch of earth. It’s been so long since your feet touched sand that you forget you’re a tropical creature. Right now, all you want is to feel at home in the cold. To sift your hands through snow, like drawing dreams in lake water. To go snuffling and rootling through the drifty dunes, to be temperate and thoughtless in this place where it should be so easy to disappear.
Once there was a boy who built you an igloo. It was March, the last storm of the season. He and his friends packed snow for hours, ruining shoes and gloves, being boys. You weren’t there to see it; you were in the Capitol, balancing on a parking bumper, reporting on gun violence. You sat on the crowded bus while everyone else was asleep and watched shaky cellphone footage of a tall figure in a blue hoodie rolling snow through the trees. At six AM, you stumbled home. Outside the windows, a lumpy structure, like an anthill made of sugar. You struggled outside, wriggled through a hole, stood up. It was bigger than you. A gap in the top to let in the sky, or maybe the boys had just gotten hungry. Still, it was warm, and safe. A lair, a blind, a snug place to hide. That’s what you wish for now. The faith of crawling into a dome of snow and trusting that it will not collapse onto you. That’s how you see winter: not a landscape through which the snowplows will shovel, but a creature with whom you have finally truced. You sit feet together, beak to breast, sunk in your feathers. The sun moves through the trees. The snow sparkles.
Lalini Shanela Ranaraja is a multi-genre writer from Kandy, Sri Lanka. She is completing a BA in anthropology and creative writing at Augustana College in Illinois. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in SAGA Art & Literary Magazine, Sky Island Journal, the Augustana Observer, and the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka.
A Song for Lalini