Cold Hope

It gets cold. Slowly. First a chill on the tip of the nose and a numb little toe. And it cuts a little deeper inside the darker it gets. A few minutes past sundown and the air is ice. Not only threatening from the shadows, but now stabbing from the inside. Of her throat. Down a lung. Outdoors for too long tonight, taking it in. The cold that had been waiting.

It was clearer. Outside. Empty sky. Not even a pin prick far off universe to distract. It was clearer. That she was addicted to the warmth. False glow. Aimless run just to generate a quickened heartbeat that felt like life. Shamefully recounting what she thought was heat. What was bright. In the daylight. 

Never was she ignorant. That there were words to trust, and words that would fail. That there were voices to believe, and those to guard against. Hindsight rendered her naive, that she would figure it out. That she could stay out of the cold. Leaving her dreaming of ignorance. But that’s not how it works.

Verdant leaf drank it down. Didn’t mean to. What else is there to breathe tonight. Singed and frostbit orange to red to brown to black. Maybe it’s supposed to be beautiful. Since they come from all over to see her change color. Such a natural wonder they believe, the birth of golden graveyard. To watch her suffocate and fall.

Soon it will be quiet. The sign of the times. When the freeze hardens what may have already been dead anyway. It happens that way when you learn a little too much. That more is gone, more must have gone under, more can no longer be spoken.

And every time. It gets a little colder. Deeper distant harder. Resilient untouchable and untouched. Untrusting unbelieving unhopeful. Something to aspire to. You’ll have control. It’s easier that way, they say.

She didn’t like the cold. It tasted like death. She didn’t like the night. It taunted her to give up and sleep. But what did it matter what she liked. What did it matter what she wanted. It was clearer outside, in the freezing midnight. That she couldn’t make it warm.

The truth should be obvious. Reality of frozen tears choking on ice. Grasping for a glowing mirage in the vapors of hearts and hands and eyes. Trust where un-trust assuredly haunts. Lying lips and mixed with hopeful songs. The cold is destructively real and the warmth she craved may only be imagined. So why imagine. That’s dumb.

But she once heard something that she couldn’t forget. Even when the outdoor eve stole every bit of strength she could muster. Even when the ice shards split her open. Even when she lay down shivering to sleep. When everything lay dead and buried deep around her. When she couldn’t even trust herself, numbed by the winter.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.” Mat. 24:32

She couldn’t forget that, as much as she wanted to. From a barren splintered stump, even the fig tree was made for hope. It’s vulnerable tender arm reaches out in to the real, yet temporary cold. Not because it even wants to. It does because summer is coming. The impending warmth makes it grow. 

She didn’t want to keep trusting, it hurt too often. She didn’t like to keep believing, and have her dreams make a fool of her one more time. She didn’t have the strength to hope for something more, not again. But summer is coming. What else could she do.