Winter began early that year. I remember it sliding in surreptitiously, over the flat grey rooftops that fled like pack animals from the centre of the city. I was awake, dragged from a shallow pool of sleep by some faceless memory, night-eyed and sick in the four a.m. light. I sat on the ledge of my apartment’s little bay window, knees hugged tightly to my chin.
It was the stillness I noticed first, a cold quiet that seemed to slip between moments of time and sew them up invisibly. Then as I watched the streets below I noticed the air had acquired a thinner resistance, tumbling paper onto the roads in scattering snowdrifts. A light mist sprang up too: half fog, maybe, half rain. I knew I was the only one who saw it. From my window I watched winter begin.
When the rest of the city awoke, a steady rain settled above the buildings, and there was no doubt now the season had changed. I still sat at my little window, my breath ghosting the glass, looking eight flights down at an unfolding morning. Tiny figures walked below, charting frugal winter pathways from doorways to cars, arms crossed and bodies bulging with hasty layers. For the first time in hours I became aware of my own body. My back had tightened like a cello string, and I stretched it out. I thought about work. I thought about a train journey with the smell of wet clothes and drops of condensation clinging to scratched Perspex.
At the back of my cupboard I found my black winter coat. I put it on, pulling up the collar, parading in bare legs in front of my mirror. In one pocket I found fragments of styrofoam and a crumpled ballet ticket. In another, a piece of water-smoothed glass. I dressed without showering and left without breakfast, combing my hair with one hand as I closed the door with another. I had cut my hair short the day before: held down at the front, layered out at the back. A cartoon explosion. Somewhere during the night I had fallen out of love with it, and cared little for what it looked like now. As I waited for the lift, a chilled wind made its way to my face. I imagined the air sweeping along the street below, riding some invisible current eight floors up, finding a chink in the crumbling armour of my building’s walls. It brought pink to my cheeks, the only colour—it seemed—anywhere in the world.