I’ve always felt I belonged in the cold. I’ve chased the sensation of that first clean intake of cold air for as long as I can remember. The first time the menthol hit of a cigarette hit my lungs, I remember choking on it, my lungs shrieking in protest. I heaved onto the ground, with the cool, lingering tingle still deep in my throat.
I remember sleeping in trees, barefoot and dressed in cut off pants two sizes too big for me, my father’s shirt wrapped around my thin frame. I remember sensing rather than knowing when the first cold front would come, with it rain and the nip that would make me shiver. The excitement of breaking from a house and hitting the air, my first breath.
All the sounds that come with fall and winter. The crunch of leaves that bled into the crunch of snow. I remember sleeping in snow banks, warmer than I thought possible, my lips tinted blue.
I still have the same excitement. My deck, where I’d find my best sleep on a hammock torn between the cold air and the refuge the blanket could offer me. I’ve whispered confessions up into the starry night as I swung, eyes to the sky that was so crystal clear, I could reach up and touch God.
I remember chasing the sensation almost lost my son. I remember the feel of rock slipping from my grip, so close, and the twisting sound of rope under weight and strain. I remember how hot and cold the blood felt on my head. I remember the relief of collapsing into the snow bank again, as if it were some soft place for me to stay a while.
Then, I remember how cold the glass felt while it was being pulled out of my face, back and arms.
Mountain streams so cold my muscles cramp, and icy pricks stab along each inch of flesh. I remember those moments as being as close to sublime as the restraint of flesh would allow me.
I remember when we moved and I opened the door to the steamy pit of the south. I remember the distinct heaviness of the air was, how unclean it felt. I remember chasing it then in other ways. Crueler ways, away from flesh, cutting into people and myself.
I remember learning to direct my rage internally and externally at once. Move pieces and people. I know when the switch was flipped, when I stopped being child and became predator.
The child wanted the cold. The predator owned it.