Seven thousand feet above our heads, a particle of dust hovers. Let’s name him Fred. Water vapor clings to Fred and condenses into a liquid droplet. Fred then freezes in the cold. More water droplets form around Fred and cling and create crystal patterns. Fred has become a snowflake, and he’s heavy, so he falls from the sky.
It’s a light, breezy tumble, with winds pushing him this way and that. It’s cold but he likes that. For one thousand feet, two thousand now, he drifts as if in a dream. Nearby, a thousand of his friends are falling in a similar dream. They woop and cheer when they pass by one another. They wonder who will cling to someone’s mitten, who will melt on someone’s nose. Who will become a Bernie-shaped snowman. Who will be scraped by the bottom of a sled.
Then, at five thousand feet above the ground, the cheers stop. They turn into screams. His friends are melting. They’ve hit a patch of warm air and their crystalline arms and legs are falling away. They’re liquid again. Their speed picks up.
Two thousand feet above ground now. Falling faster. Too fast. Back to the cold. The warm air was just a fluke. But it’s different. There are no crystals here. They become hard, thick pellets. Fred and his friends are sleet.
Fred hits the ground and it’s hard. He bounces and it hurts. And he has no time to think before the rest of his friends crash down. Shocked and afraid, they cling together on the ground, forming a thick sheet of ice.
On Thursday in DC, what was supposed to be a nice snowy day became an ice storm, thanks to a sole patch of warm air nearly a mile above ground. Where did the warm air come from? Why was it there? Does it matter? My driveway is pure ice and I have no shovel, that’s what matters. I have to take extra care in walking, that’s what matters.
Sometimes, bad things happen that change your life. Sometimes, bad things happen and nothing happens after that. I think about this a lot. I am a human being, so bad things have happened to me and to people I love. Everything that has happened to me is now part of who I am. But I hate to think the bad things were necessary for me to become me. Because I like me. Does that make sense?
On Thursday, we were supposed to get a snow storm, but we got an ice storm instead, and it encased tree twigs in ice, which was beautiful. On Friday night, I was supposed to have a boring night, but something bad happened instead, something that was almost very very bad but instead was only bad because of what it could have been, and now I will never again walk in the alley behind my house alone at night. I don’t know how else this event is going to change me. I hope that the me-ness of me will become stronger as a result. But I wish it didn’t have to.