New York. Late fall. It snowed today. It snowed the whole afternoon; it snowed so heavily, the Empire State building vanished entirely from my window.
I stared out the window of my office in mid-town Manhattan, fifteen floors up, and felt excitement. The snow brought back fond memories of my sojourn to Japan in 2011. It reminded me of the yearning I’ve always had for snow, growing up in a tropical country.
I put on my scarf, earmuffs, boots and wool coat (which my friends told me wouldn’t be warm enough at minus 20 degrees Celsius. “You need a down jacket,” they had said.) and took the elevator down.
I pushed through the revolving door, stepped outside into the cold, took a deep breath and waited.
I had expected little blobs of snow to come landing gently onto my face and my outstretched hands. Instead, I felt the splash of water, streaking down in pelts.
Back home, I would walk in the rain sometimes; where I come from, feeling the rain was a very common occurrence. Today I was hoping for a different sensation, but I got the same experience as I did back in Singapore. It made me feel homesick.
“My $140 XS wool coat is going to get wet and shrink if I continue to soak in this rain,” I thought. I turned back and returned to the building.
Fifteen floors above ground, the snow continued to fall hard.
It snowed again last night. In fact it snowed the whole of yesterday, except it only became a real blizzard last evening; my first snowstorm.
I got what I asked for. It was snowing so thick I had difficulty trudging through the thick piles of fresh snow. It was snowing so hard it felt like I was being attacked by snow, instead of the gentle snowfall I was expecting. The wind was so strong, it blew my umbrella upwards. I carried the umbrella anyway, despite looking like an idiot.
“Why,” my friend, Eric asked. I had met him in a club on Halloween. American-born Japanese, he was six-foot tall and handsome, and dressed like Edward Cullen from Twilight. I fucking hated Twilight, but I was drunk. We agreed to hang out; being bored and single in New York City, I had nothing to lose.
“Because I’m trying to catch the snow,” I laughed.
I stuck my hand and tongue out. Upon my eagerly outstretched hand, I caught nothing. Despite the heavy snowing, snow flying in all directions, somehow it managed to evade my palm. On my tongue, I tasted nothing, I honestly did not know what I was expecting to taste either, but it felt like ice kacang.
“Free dessert,” I dumbly thought, with my tongue continuing to hang out. Then I briefly wondered about the hygiene of snow, and hastily retracted my tongue.
Snow is very pretty.
I trudged through the snowstorm, and managed to get myself to a Malaysian-Chinese restaurant with my friend. The food was good, and it was a taste of home for someone who had been away for six months.
I was happy, warm, safe, satisfied. He had terrible table manners, but he had big soulful brown eyes and a very childlike demeanour, which made him endearing. It was our second date and he seemed like decent company; But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him again.
I looked out the restaurant window. Snow was still falling, the illumination of the street lamp turned the snow into shades of yellow and orange. It was like a scene from the movies.
We went to Macy’s and bought gloves there. Red, my favorite color. Shell – 100% Genuine Leather, Palm – 79% Nylon, 21% Spandex, Lining – 100% Polyester, Made in China. I paid $40.
Out on the streets, my hands continued to freeze. Wearing my newly bought red gloves, I had the brief imagery of ten sausages sticking out awkwardly from my limbs.
I was happy but I was still not warm; I was very certain that my fingers would freeze and fall off eventually, one by one.
We parted at the subway station, it was an awkward hug, with the side of my face being shoved awkwardly into his wet, cold coat.
Snow is very pretty, but it is a lie. There’s nothing romantic or fun about trudging through the snow without the risk of slipping.
Unlike the rain, there is no smell of fresh grass, like the earth being given a shower. Snow has no smell. It blankets everything: the sounds, colours, the sensations of an everyday street. Everything is enveloped in a white sheet, muted and quiet.
Very pretty, very exciting, very moving for someone who was experiencing her first blizzard.
This morning, everything was caked in white frosting. Everything looked so pretty.
But I know that the seemingly innocuous, nice round-shaped “rock”, which appears to be a big snowball is actually a garbage bag, stuffed to the fullest. I know because I was dumb enough to stick my foot into it.
I know that the whiteness fades off into a thin transparent sheen when the snow melts into ice. This thin transparent sheen – sometimes grey, sometimes black – from the tyres of cars driving over it and from the footprints of pedestrians. I know that this thin “invisible” sheet of ice, can kill, because I could have slipped easily, knowing how careless I am.
Despite all its deception, the snow made me very happy. Growing up in tropical Singapore, snow was something I had experienced only in Hollywood films – of Christmas in winter wonderland settings, of lovers ice-skating, of family reunions over toasty fireplaces. These heartwarming scenes that take place in the heart of winter, warmed my cold heart. That yearning was briefly satisfied last night.
But still Hollywood, I want my money back.