First Thing White in the Morning



I lost my glasses to some mysterious hole in the bus or perhaps a hasty escape from some log cabin hotel room as I made my way through mountain states and long winding roads, which leaves me this morning as most mornings, with coffee cup stain blurry vision as I pull myself out of bed for another day in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. I stumble around the bedroom in my mother’s big barn of a house looking for pants and fumbling with the fan trying to figure out which switch will turn the light on as opposed to merely changing up the speed of the fan and trying to gauge how far up to reach so that I grab the pull chain and not get my fingers caught in the spinning blades. It’s a groggy 7:47am and I’m up, for sure, but aware, only beginning to be. I fall into the shower to let the stink of yesterday and the sleep of last night fall off of my body, pop plastic contacts into green brown eyeballs still gooey with some dream that I only faintly remember, involving contemplation over whether or not I should break a bottle over someone’s head. I can’t remember who the person was, in the dream, or why I seem to so often have this dream of coming so close to breaking bottles or crowbars over large men’s heads. The dream is forgotten as I step out of the shower and see it through the window above my bed: inches thick and still falling, my first Pennsylvania snow of the year and if I’m lucky, my only.

Pennsylvania is rolling green hills all summerlong. It’s dazzling bright and burning leaves in the Autumntime. It’s long, long, all too long winters but the first snow, when it’s so fresh the plows haven’t been out to push it aside into clumps of muddy salted muck, only white and pillowy and covering every tree limb and yard and hiding the ugliness of the cattle farm-like car lot expanses that are this tiny plot of suburbia. It’s too beautiful.

I drive my mother to work so that I can use her car if I need to during the day. Public transportation is non-existent and there isn’t a bicycle with my name on it for 1,785 miles. On the way home I take backroads through neighborhoods with more memories I’ve forgotten–fights I’ve managed my way through and those I’ve been less lucky with, first girlfriends or skateboarding everyday afternoons, school bus stops and all the houses and shacks I’ve lived in over the years–than I care to even begin to remember, though nostalgia is thick as the snow begins to slightly melt under the tire tread of her Mitsubishi Eclipse. A new Alice in Chains song comes on, though the original singer is dead, they’ve apparently found his vocal equivalent and begun anew. Soundgarden follows. Van Halen and ACDC follow. It’s a rock’n’roll kind of morning and “Dude Looks like a Lady” takes me the whole way to the small house who’s owners have transformed into a Steeler Country store and I buy myself a few stickers for the bus. It needs something on it to let people know that though I won’t be back any more often than a time or two a year, I’m a Pittsburgher and proud of it.

Later in the day, waiting for phone calls from whomever might be interested enough to brave the cold to come and see me for lunch or meet for drinks later, I watch Tristan bundled in a charcoal gray snowsuit dive through the powder to tackle a girl a good head and a half taller than him. He’s been playing–sled riding, snowballing, snow angeling–for a good hour now and though there are two other older girls out in the thick of frost with him, he’s only focusing his tackle effects on one. I laugh at how he’s probably in some version of 8 year old crushing on the girl and she seems to be having none of it, attempting to get away but she doesn’t seem upset. Probably flattered smattered with a touch of annoyance. It’s grand to be a kid, I think, and particularly this young boy, whom no one ever really seems to pick on all that much. He’ll be a “cool” kid, I allow myself to rest assured. Not that I would care if he was or wasn’t. The dorks, the nerds, they all end up more satisfied and successful in life, I know, the pressure and difficulties of not being automatically popular in high school force a young person to work on themselves, their personalities, so much that by the time they’re adults it’s largely smooth sailing. Still, if he can avoid the pantsings, hazings, solitary lunch room disasters, I’ll be all the happier for him.

Well into the afternoon and the snow still hasn’t stopped. I drop outside for a cigarette and the chocolate lab, Trooper, who lives here follows me out to lick the snow and paint it yellow. I’m bored of Ebensburg already, after only a few days, but it’s nice to be home. There’s a fresh homemade pumpkin pie or jar of cookies made every day and my mom and sister are two of the easiest people to be around. I miss the bus, though, the mountains, the west, and every beautiful thing that they hold. Life is still on pause, as it has been since October, since this transition from tumbling wagons to moseying homes has begun, but now the play button is ready, fingers on the trigger and in only a few short weeks an entirely new chapter of my life, what I will be able to call “our” life, in so many ways, will begin. It’s a chapter I’ve wanted written for nearly a decade now and I can’t help but think the universe is, once again, lining everything up just for me, just for us.