For the record, it was the kind of restless weather that gives birth to those unexplainable, nutty ideas. Wind blowing, hard cold out of the northwest, light snow swirling down on the gusts. For some dumb reason I went out in it on my bike. I had the wrong gloves on and the cold was blowing right through my riding gloves. I couldn’t feel my fingers. Not a half mile down the road from the house a gust nearly blew me off the bike and I realized it was so dark with the clouds hanging low and the snow blowing that I could barely see the lights from town. I could barely see the gravel road right in front of me. I could have taken the truck, should have turned around then, but I didn’t. Instead, I just made it worse. As I got into town and I wasn’t sure I was even holding the handlebars I turned down the street toward the Uptown. Told myself I needed to get warm.
So when I arrived at her door an hour later, I was now a little tanked up on top of being cold. I think I surprised her, not really in a good way. She wondered what I was doing out there, maybe a little too much alarm in her voice. And I said something stupid — of course I was going to say something stupid in that circumstance — what else could one say when the windchill is below zero and it’s dark and snow is billowing around and anyone smart would be at home, curled up in bed or by a fire or something?
I was hoping she would invite me in, and she did finally, but by then I realized that instead of this being a nice surprise — somebody was thinking about her birthday and showing up keep her company — it was just jarring and maybe even reminded her even more that she was alone on her birthday with no friends or family around. I had just made it worse. So by the time she did invite me in I felt terrible and felt even worse for hurting her feelings — which I’m sure I had done — and was trying to beg off and just get away on my bike. And she said don’t be crazy, you can’t ride home in this, I’ll drive you, but that just underlined how wrong this all was. So finally I agreed to come in and warm my hands a little but the whole time I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We were sorta making small talk but it was awkward all over and I just wanted to scream, I was so mad at myself for being so stupid.
And then I think she got mad when I suddenly put my glove and my hat and my jacket back on and zipped out of there. It was freezing but I didn’t even notice until I was on the country road just a couple of miles from the house, when I hit a rock and fell off my bike. I lay in the road for awhile, breathing like crazy. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I just wanted to make the night go away, erase it. I might have laid there and froze to death except I thought I saw a car coming and I got up. For a second I think I hoped it was her coming after me, but it wasn’t. Wasn’t anything.
Happy Birthday, Sarah. And it’s not like it will go away: it will be awkward as hell to say hello tomorrow morning at the cafe.