A Love Letter To Winter, At the Beginning

Robyn Ryle

Well, you’ve arrived early. No surprise there. We know you well – insistent and relentless. You knock on the door when the kitchen’s still warm from baking bread and no one’s had time to change into the proper clothes.

All the other guests brought something. A basket of crisp apples that taste like orange and yellow leaves against a bright blue sky. A bouquet of tulips and daffodils that smell of wet earth. A tomato sauce that runs thick and sensuous like blood.

What do you have? Nothing. Just your silence. You sit in the corner and barely take a bite. Your apple’s gone all mushy in the cold grip of your hand.

Oh, certainly, you are beautiful. You wear fine, sheer dresses. You move about the room as if you are dancing. The slightest draft could blow you this way and then that. You turn around in circles and stare up into the darkness of the rafters and you say, “It is too bright in here. Too yellow.” You prefer a different kind of light. Or no light at all.

I’ll give you that you’re beautiful, like the paintings at a museum. Look but don’t touch. Like something locked away behind a pane of glass. You are beautiful from the outside.

Still, we cannot help but fear that you’ll be the last one to leave. You will ignore our pointed coughs and glances at the clock. You are not one for social graces. You prefer to interact with people when they’re stripped down to the bare bones. When they are rendered raw by lack of comfort. You will go on sitting there in your silence. The room will grow so very quiet.

And of course, in the silence, our thoughts will pile up on the floor. At first, the barest dusting with the color of the carpet still showing through beneath. Then it will disappear, and next our shoes. In the silence, our thoughts will fall light and airy at first. We will smile as we watch them. We will smile at each other.

But eventually, our thoughts will come heavier and heavier. Faster and faster. When they are piled up to our knees, we will only be able to see the outline of each other’s bodies, hidden behind the veil of blinding thoughts. And then slowly, inevitably, we will be buried alive. Each one alone.

The apples and the flowers and the tomato sauce will be forgotten as if they never existed. As if they could never exist again. We will forget ourselves inside your silence. We will reach out for each other. We will light the fire. Sing a song. We will try to fill the space with noise. We will huddle together and when you leave, you will whisper, “That is what I intended all along.”

But we will not believe you.

Robyn Ryle started life in one small town in Kentucky and ended up in another just down the river in southern Indiana. She teaches sociology to college students when she's not writing and has stories in CALYX Journal, Stymie Magazine, Bluestem Magazine, and WhiskeyPaper, among others. You can find her on Twitter @RobynRyle.