The snow came down hard and collected in the space between sidewalk and 20th Street. We stood on the stoop, and I noticed few people walking past. Elizabeth slid her arm around mine and shivered. Pure white falling onto her dark chocolate hair seemed in perfect contrast. When I moved my hand onto her arm, she pulled back.
“You look cold,” I said.
She glanced up into the snow and said nothing.
An old man sat at the foot of the stairs, taking fast breaths. He said something out loud that I couldn't understand.
The air was sharp.
“So, where to?” Elizabeth asked. She opened her umbrella and made her way down the steps, past the old man, then stared back at me.
A gust of wind turned the umbrella inside out. Elizabeth wrestled with it, proving just stronger, and she seemed, for a moment, like someone else. Not the woman I'd been fighting with for days on end. She used the sleeve of her sweater to wipe dry the lenses of her dark-purple-rimmed glasses.
“I don't know,” I said, walking down the stairs. “What do you want?”
Elizabeth bit her lip. She looked away, at ground, sky, her distorted reflection in a frozen car window. “What are we doing?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I wanted to stay in the apartment,” she said. “You wanted to go out, Jack.” She bit her nail, teeth mimicking the sound of clippers.
“Are you in the mood for anything?” I asked and pushed her hand away from her mouth. I looked down the street. No cabs, no plows, just snow piling up. The trees seemed to form an arch over everything below. It looked like a Manhattan from another time.
“It was dry in the apartment,” she said. “It was warm.” Her green galoshes smacked in and out of the snow. She seemed worn down.
“Are you too cold?” I asked. “Is it bad if you get too cold?” I began to take off my scarf.
“We had Thai yesterday.”
“Yeah, I don't want Thai.”
“Oh my god,” she said.
“What?” I felt my eyebrows furrow.
“Why are you doing this?” Elizabeth blew into her hands.
I exasperated her, I knew. Her cheeks were rosy red against fair skin. I stared at her and couldn't answer. I didn't know why. I wasn't angry and I was terrified.
“What about Blue Moon?” I said.
“There was a hair in my Moonarito last time,” she said, imitating the motion of pulling something unpleasant from her mouth.
“It was cheese,” I said.
Elizabeth looked at me and begged for something. She'd looked at me like that the night before. She needed me to fix things, and I couldn't.
“I'm going back upstairs.”
“What about sushi?” I asked. “It's been a while.”
“Two days is a while?” she said, lifting her eyebrow in a way that made me dislike her face.
“That's a long time for us.”
The wind picked up down the street. A gust cut at my face, and I felt too young to be standing with Elizabeth. To be married and happy and fighting and miserable. Too young for all of it.
“Just pick,” she yelled, “for the love of god.”
“Do you want sushi?” I asked. I couldn't think anymore. We'd been arguing for days.
“Are you kidding me?” she said through frost.
“Blue Ginger or Daioh, then?”
Elizabeth sighed. I watched her breath, moving like a ghost when she exhaled. She looked drained of color and patience.
“Maybe you shouldn't have all that mercury,” I said, but I didn't really know.
“I swear on all that is holy, Jack. Pick. Now. Please.”
She glared, but I felt like she was looking through me. I imagined something menacing and awful behind me, something to match Elizabeth's eyes. I hoped it wasn't me. In that moment, I wanted to apologize. For everything I'd said.
“Let's just get Thai.”
Her jaw ground back and forth beneath her cheeks. “I really hate you.”
It felt true. We walked to the corner.
“We didn't have to go out, you know,” I said.
Elizabeth didn't look at me.
“I was restless,” I said.
“You're always restless.”
“I haven't been sleeping.”
“You drink too much coffee,” she said. “You can't have coffee at two in the morning and expect to sleep.”
I nipped a stray piece of thumbnail. Elizabeth pulled my hand away from my mouth.
“Were you still up last night?” I asked.
“I fell asleep pretty quickly.”
“X-Files was on,” I said. “It was a good episode, where Scully sees her dead father and Brad Dourif calls her ‘starbuck.'”
I nodded. “It's a classic.”
“I was up,” she said. “I watched most of it.”
“I talked to you,” I said, confused. “You weren't asleep? You didn't say anything.”
She looked up at me, for the first time in days, with gentle eyes. “I was tired.”
“But you were awake. I was awake.”
“You left the TV on, too,” she said. “I woke up and it was still on. You should set the sleep timer.”
“But why didn't you answer?”
I wanted to lean in and kiss my wife, slide my hand around her and hold her, sense the difference in her body.
Suddenly, though, she felt unattainable.
“Have you ever seen a vision of your father?” Elizabeth asked.
We moved against a post office box. Elizabeth smiled at an approaching Weimaraner puppy. She bent down and let the puppy bound into her. The owner stood at a distance and tugged hard on the leash.
“Once,” I said as the puppy left Elizabeth. “A reflection in the bathroom mirror, like he was standing behind me. He was yelling something that I couldn't hear.”
“I wouldn't want to see my father,” she said.
“Your father's not dead.”
“Exactly,” she said and smirked.
Snow slid off the umbrella and collected on Elizabeth's shoulder. I brushed it away and let my hand come to rest on her arm. Her coat was comforting and wool.
“What do you think he was saying?” she asked in a serious, almost professional voice.
“Your father,” she said. “What was he yelling?”
“I didn't want to know.” I moved closer to her, pressed up against her. I looked down, and she did too. I put my hands in her coat pockets and pressed my palms to her stomach.
“I would want to know,” she said quietly. “It was probably important.”
“He looked horrified,” I said. “He frightened me.”
Elizabeth looked at me as if I'd ruined something. She pulled back and faced the street, ready to cross.
The snow fell heavier on 8th Avenue. Elizabeth gestured to me, asking if I wanted the umbrella. I shook my head and glanced up at the street signal.
“Please don't run,” I said.
Without a look back, Elizabeth bounded across the street. There were no cars, but the asphalt had become lost beneath a sea of white. I couldn't move. Instead, I watched Elizabeth, who made it across the avenue and kept walking. She was at the restaurant before she turned around. Through the snow, she raised her hands in confusion.
The sign above Bright Food Shop flickered, and Elizabeth's silhouette flashed and disappeared. I wanted to cross to meet her. My feet melted into the avenue, and I imagined, for a moment, being buried beneath the nor'easter.
I yelled across the avenue. The snowfall swallowed my words. I called out again, but she couldn't hear me. It was in this way the matter was settled.