Snow on Friday Night
It’s Friday night, and we’re at the bowling alley. Eight or nine of us have two lanes. Sitting at our table, I hear someone yell Klara’s name.
I look up to see this random group of guys. They look like they went snowboarding all day. They’re wearing baggy snow pants and loose, long-sleeve shirts. Their hair is curly and wild, with cowlicks sticking far off their heads as if they just rolled out of bed. This is a very standard Missoula, Montana jackass appearance: a careless and lazy look many dudes adopt in order to fit in. They’re grinning and striding in our direction, and all of them are looking at Klara, who’s seated across from me. A few are holding pitchers of beer, the foamy liquid sloshing around and spilling onto the carpeted floor. One cups his mouth and yells “Klara!” again up at the ceiling, as if he’s a howling wolf.
I’ve never seen these guys in my life. And I wonder if she invited them or if they’re just coincidentally here.
I’m alone and sitting at the bar connected to the bowling alley, staring out the window at the mounting snow. Klara walks in and leans against me, resting her forehead on my shoulder.
“Are you feeling ok, Charlie?” she asks.
“Well, you know how you always read to me when I’m in the tub?”
“Let me do that for you tonight after we bowl.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“We’ll go to my house and get you in the bath. Then you’ll stay over and I’ll give you all the T.L.C.”
“That sounds so nice, but I’ve been thinking about leaving.”
She lifts her head off my shoulder and says, “Please stay, Charlie.”
“Good. I’ll get everyone to play as fast as they can so we can leave sooner, ok?”
She kisses me on the cheek and leaves. I watch her walk out of the bar, heading to where everyone’s bowling.
Eventually I get up and start walking to where everyone is. Then when I reach the door that goes to the bowling area, I look out and see Klara with her arm around one of those guys’ shoulders. They’re smiling and looking down the lane.
I storm into the bathroom.
I firmly grab the sides of the sink. Then at first it’s just my forehead slamming onto the porcelain—against the spot that reaches out to your waist. I’m doing it over-and-over: the way you would punch someone when they are completely exposed and can be easily hurt. Five, six times, and then more. I feel my pulse throbbing in my head. I can’t stop thinking about how awful and full of self-pity I am. Of course she doesn’t love me. Then I take aim at my face. My eyes. My chin. During one of the thrusts, I feel my nose graze the sink. The thin bone feels so fragile and easy to break, so I make sure my next thrust will hit it directly. I bang my face again—blood starts leaking out of my nostrils. One more time—and finally, I feel it break.
With my hand covering my nose, I walk out of the bathroom and out of the building and head down a dark street.
I watch a guy who’s down the block shoveling his sidewalk in the dark. He looks very calm and relaxed. He isn’t moving quickly. He isn’t driving the shovel into the snow, scooping it up, and then heaving it over his shoulder—over-and-over—sending the snow into chaotic white clouds. Instead, he’s moving slowly. He puts the blade of the shovel on the ground and nudges, inch-by-inch, at the snow. He’s making sure to get completely under it. He wants his walkway to be nice and clear. Once he gathers enough snow, he sticks the shovel off to his side and tips the blade, letting the powder take its natural course and gracefully fall to the ground.
He stands there in silence, taking a break. Then he starts nudging at the snow again.
As I start walking by his house on the other side of his metal fence, he stops shoveling. He sticks the shovel in the snow and holds onto the grip. He stares at me. I’m still holding my nose, and I wonder if he can see the blood on my shirt even though it’s dark out.
“How are you?” I ask.
“Just fine. You?”
“I’m doing alright,” I say, shrugging.
“That’s all you can really ask for.”
I walk further down the street. Once I hear the guy start shoveling again, I stop walking. And with the snowflakes gently melting on my face, I carefully listen to that sound: a calm old-man shoveling his sidewalk in the middle of the night.
Kyle Glover is a teacher in Seattle, WA. His work has appeared in Cold Creek Review.