by Finn Decker
I remember U2's music videos for “New Year's Day” and “The Unforgettable Fire,” videos of the four of them on horseback waving white flags and riding grimly over sparse, snow-covered fields scatter-shot with leafless trees and silence, even with the song playing, silence. They were haunted images, and I pictured myself in those images, by myself in the fields, haunting and haunted. Actor and acted upon. My ghost would live in my absence. I could disappear in those fields.
Years later, I spent a certain weekend with my friend Lisa and her friend from high school, Sally. I'm not sure why, but the three of us didn't leave one another the whole weekend, and we barely left the dorm. We left just once that I remember, at night to see a play that Sally worked on as a lighting tech, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's “The Tempest.” Afterward, as the three of us made our way back to the womb of the dormitory, we ran across the snowy fields between the auditorium and our building. One of us, me, Lisa, I don't know who, sang, “All is quiet, on New Year's Day…” and the other two joined. We giggled as we ran, trouncing through the snow, knee deep, singing this song of lost love and destruction, and picturing ourselves making our way through the snow of that video, with the earnestness of those singers. We saw our dorm, a tower of twelve stories, a relative skyscraper on that campus of gardens and river walks and squat red-brick buildings. Over that field of snow, strident chords filling my ears as I imagined myself grander than I was, the lights of that tower gave off such a quiet, comfortable warmth. The air was icy, the building near, the song still rolling from our lips.
So many of my most vivid memories are wintry like that. Three or four years later, dropping Emma off at her dorm, we approached each other for hugs goodbye, trying to stay balanced on the sheet of ice beneath us. The sky crystal black, I heard the sound of a frozen flag clanging against its pole, ice on metal, the present on the past. I drove home slowly that night, along back roads that had yet to be salted, still icy from the previous night's storm. My brakes were an approximation, a guess at where my car might stop at any given corner. I'd press them, eventually the car would slow, the ice would give, and I'd stop. It seemed that no one else was out that night. I still think about the icy flag bouncing against the pole, the ice not breaking. It was quieter with that metallic rhythm than it would have had there been no sound at all. It was the loneliest sound I've ever heard.