Touchstone

The short winter days of New England are drained of all color and replaced with its absence, white, black and gray.  The naked branches, gnarled and arthritic bend under the weight of the sunless sky and the lakes and ponds become frozen.  I moved into a one bedroom apartment, optimistically called a garden level but more realistically described as a subterranean hovel the first time my wife left me in the winter of 2005.

There were three small rooms with no space for color; the walls, the cheap wooden kitchen cabinets, the appliances, the linoleum floors, the metal folding closet doors and the popcorn ceilings where all devoid of pigment. For all of its whiteness, the light was scarce; limited by the sun’s winter struggle and the small rectangular windows perched just above the soil line.  The furnishings, a mattress on the floor, a cardboard box for a night stand, a tattered upholstered loveseat and an old tube TV screamed early American squatter.  The complex was made up of cinder block buildings too far from Boston and not far enough away on the edge of Interstate 495 in a town called Marlborough.  In my mind the name of the town conjured up the image of  a nicotine stained, leathery old cowboy hacking and sputtering in his final days, an apt description of the town.
Brazilian immigrants made up the largest population of the complex.  Any rare interaction with adjacent neighbors was limited to two or three words of mangled English. Foreign food smells seeped into the halls and Portuguese television stations shouted through the walls.

On New Year’s Eve, I found myself alone, sitting in the car outside of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn located in an affluent bordering town watching the glow of the red inn’s windows become brighter in the encroaching darkness. A festive couple parked their car, kissed and quickly made their way through the cold into the Inn.  I imagined the orange glow of the fire, the red table cloths, the green pine boughs and the laughter that fell like broken glass. A light snow began to fall as I made my way back to my apartment.
I fell asleep that night looking at a smooth polished stone sitting on my cardboard night stand.  I had collected it from a Maine beach on a sunny summer day, fascinated by its perfect roundness and glittering bits of quartz.  Who knows where its journey began or where it would end, tossed and tumbled by the tides its true beauty at last revealed. 

Under the crushing weight of white I dreamt in color that night.


 

 

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