January in Nebraska is like this:
Between the cars, on the yellow painted lines in the parking lot, snow melted to slush and then froze into ice and there are slick stripes, perilous patches to avoid while loading and unloading your children from the car again and again.
The windiest day of the week coincides always with trash day. Chicken nugget boxes and empty water bottles and odd things, like homemade Christmas decorations roll and fly and barrel down sidewalks, into roads, stalling in ravines against snow banks.
The snow that was once fluffy freezes on top and is glazed like something you would make at a pottery place. If you walk on it, you will crunch it’s brulee top, sink into its center until you hit the sun-deprived earth, somewhere beneath.
Cars are freckled with the brine and snow and water sprayed up from the streets. On their windshields you can see exactly where someone stopped scraping, got in, blowing into her cold hands.
On the day it thaws enough that the earth meets the sun, the air is filled with all that was buried before. Everywhere smells like a septic tank with an open lid.
The skin on your hands is chapped and cracks along the tops, beneath the nails.
Also in January, I remember winters before. I remember so sharply desperation, acutely I know how it felt on the days when my life closed down around me, always in the dead of winter. I feel again what it was to be afraid, how hard it was to be brave.
The polar vortex this year constricted the breath inside of me. I spent so many mornings in bed. Sometimes I slept. Mostly I waited for it to be over.
Groundhog day has come and gone and the line at the car wash today was so long that I know almost, it is over.