Frozen Through

Julia Klatt Singer

 

The moment Daisy realized she was frozen, and by frozen, I mean completely frozen; a solid, rectangular block of ice, she felt panic harden. 

        She had been walking up the sidewalk, had stopped to look at the roof of the house, something had glimmered at the edge of it, and the next thing she knew, she couldn’t lift her foot to move it.  Nor could she move her lips to speak, to scream.  It had happened that fast—she was suddenly unable to move, frozen through.

        Sure, the ice plates of her body would shift occasionally, like any other solid, but movement came from external sources, not internal ones, from the wind and the tilting of the earth, from the temperature dropping, from the pull of the moon and the snow that fell, later, and coated her head and shoulders.

        It was strangely calm to be a frozen girl.  Not that she had ever been one to be overly emotional.  She knew women that were, and found them a bother.  So caught up in things.  So busy feeling.  They were the types that never balanced their checkbooks, never check the gas gage.  They were the ones that listened to their biological clocks.  God how she hated that term.  In Daisy’s mind, sex was math, calculated and a matter of odds. 

        When she told her friend Jane this, Jane had dropped her mouth open in horror.  Didn’t she feel anything? A tug a pull a desire?  How did she explain those things in mathematical terms?  Didn’t she wish for something that wasn’t concrete, something that couldn’t be tallied? 

       

        She had wished for a twin sister when she was young, and as she stood in the yard, she realized it would have been nice to have another side of her--equally frozen-- like two popsicle.  She would like the symmetry, the balance of company.  Instead she stood facing the house she had grown up in, not thinking all that much, just watching lights flicker on at the neighbors’ houses now that it was dusk.  She watched the wind in the trees, the crows flying in circles, the squirrels scampering up trunks of trees with chunks of newspaper in their mouths. 

        No one seemed to notice her there, and she wondered if she was invisible too.  And if she was invisible, did she exist at all?  What made a woman a woman?  Besides the obvious.  She knew there was no mistaking her for a woman.  She had been blessed with a woman’s body, curvy and long, she had the fine features that catch men’s eyes.  She knew she added up to an attractive woman, and she knew it had gotten her a job or two, and let her through doors, into rooms she wouldn’t have had a chance to enter if she hadn’t been pretty.  If she didn't move, wasn't visible, didn't consume a thing, did she exist?  A shot of panic moved through her body.  And for the first time, she saw this as a good thing.  If you could still panic, you must be alive.

        Her mind fought the idea of no longer existing.  For one thing, she had just taken the trash out to the alley, had been doing something useful.  Okay, she made a couple mistakes.  Didn't bother to put a jacket on, despite the 17 below temperature, left her cell phone on the kitchen counter (not that she could answer or dial it now), and she didn't tell anyone she was finally cleaning out her father’s house.  Her brothers had done all the hard work.  Were there taking turns nursing her father as he died, helping their mother through it all.  Billy had moved their mother in with him, and Tony and Lou had found the realtor, had moved all the big furniture out, had asked Daisy if she had wanted anything, for sentimental reasons and she had laughed.  Surely they knew her by now.  The last thing Daisy was, was sentimental. 

        Tony had left a message on her answering machine asking if she could finish cleaning out the house.  There wasn’t much left, but his wife was about to deliver their third child and he couldn’t get to it.  Lou was in Europe on his honeymoon and Billy was taking care of their mother. 

        She had gone over after work, figuring it wouldn’t take long, didn’t bother telling anyone she was finally getting around to it.

        Hardly big mistakes.  More like errors in judgment. 

 

        But to stop existing altogether didn't make sense.  Besides, icicles existed.  They had weight and volume, they could be held in your hand.  Ice was something real.  Frozen was a state.  So she must still exist. And if she could think, she must still be alive.

        The house was empty.  She had taken the last bag of trash out, just needed to wash the floors and then call the realtor and give him the keys. 

        And it had been just as she expected.  She knew she was supposed to feel something as she sorted through her father's things, and that she didn’t, didn’t feel a thing.  Expected to feel a sadness but found instead that each object was just that, an object; a toaster, a drill, a dresser, a television and remote.  Now that he no longer used them, they seemed ordinary, their existence purely as the function they preformed.  She had felt a wave of sadness when she found the shoe polish and the rag he had used to polish the heavy black shoes he had worn to work.  She had frowned because the rag was bent and dirty, crusted with polish and when she picked it up, she knew what it had felt like in his hands. 

 

        The sky shifted into a muddy purple, the stars came out one by one and Daisy knew this was going to be a night she'd never forget. 

        She never realized how hard it was to just be.  To just stand and watch the world fall into night.  Everything around her was changing.  The snow went from blue to gray, (from 6 to 7—colors for her had numbers attached to them, everything did) the sky from purple (4) to charcoal (13), the birds tucked themselves in for the night, as did the squirrels.  Car tires squeaked on the snowy roads.  Dogs barked to be let in.  Doors slammed.  The street lights came on, slowly warming up to the idea, made haloes on the ground and she wished she had one shining on her.  There was a freedom in being frozen, the cold no longer mattered, it was just a fact.  It was just what she was. 

        And she knew it wasn’t that hard for her, to not feel.  She had never been every good at it.  Each boyfriend had said the same thing.  You just don’t feel anything.  It had never bothered her much, because it was true, and feeling were overrated, as far as she could see.  Sure, you needed them for the big things, but not every day.  Numbers and facts were much easier to deal with.  Better friends, better to fall in love with.

        Daisy stood in the shadow of bare trees in the yard she had chased her brothers in, played of all things—frozen tag, stood in the spot, she just realized, where she had let V.J. slid his hands from her waist up to her bra, where he had circled in as they had kissed, teeth knocking for the first time.  V.J. had been a quiet boy with the most beautiful eyelashes and a head for math.  Her parents never realized what the two of them were adding up to, not until the wastebasket in her room with the multitude of used condoms was discovered by her little brother.   V. J. liked sex.  Loved saying Daisy’s name as she climbed on top of him.  She had liked it too, like the ritual of doing their homework, getting most of it done, and then V.J. with the eraser of his pencil, would trace the shape of her shoulder or arm, the curve of her breast.  She continued working as he undressed her, so that by the time she did the last equation she was completely nude, had V.J. focused on some sweet spot of her body.  She still thinks of her favorite number when she orgasms.  Sometimes finds herself multiplying the biggest numbers she can, making her body wait until she gets the final answer.

        She got an A in calculus, so her parents weren’t as upset as she thought they were going to be when her little brother told everyone at dinner that Daisy had a lot of see-through balloons in her trash can. Strange ones, some long, some rolled into little circles.

 

        It had never occurred to her that maybe her parents were pleased, that if she was showing normal desires and feelings, that she was in fact not as detached as they thought and feared she was.

 

        As she stood there, in the night air, she felt her body stirring and was thrilled to know she could still feel something, even if it was an old memory, even if V.J. was bald and living in Boston , working at M.I.T.  and married to a heavy set woman who refused to make eye contact with Daisy the two times they had met.  She couldn’t picture V.J. tracing this woman’s body with a pencil, nor could she picture him ever telling her about their study habits.  She didn’t want to picture V.J.’s body now, a man’s body with the weight of years around his waist. 

        She had always been thin, still was, and knew her body hadn’t changed much--except that it was now frozen.

        She watched as the moon broke the top of trees, and wondered what she had done to deserve this.  Sure, she could be cold, turn cool when she started to lose interest in a man, in a thing.  But she never believed in pretending anything.  She wished her feelings were like numbers, but emotions were more like the weather, shifting and changing with the light of day, and the darkness night offered. 

        The kitchen light turned on at the Murphy’s house next door.  She watched as Mrs. Murphy stood at the sink washing a frying pan.  From this distance, she looked the same as she has when Daisy was a girl.   She remembered a night when she was ten or eleven.  Her mother had gone over to return a book she had borrowed.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  It was a spring night and Daisy had been playing cards with her brother Billy, on the back porch. 

        The sound of women’s voices filtered through the night air.   Daisy recognized her mother’s voice every so often, but not the words.  She and Billy were playing war and it was getting brutal.  Neither of them liked to lose. 

        Billy had slapped a card down and the quiet that followed made the small blond hairs on her arms stand up straight.  The absence of sound.  She felt too a charge, a bolt of emotion.  The sob that followed felt like soft thunder.  When she heard her mother repeating, its okay, its okay, it will be okay…Daisy knew it would.  She had heard her mother say those words to her, to her brothers and she had always been right. 

        Watching Mrs. Murphy now, she wondered what it had been that had made her sob.  Daisy knew she had felt things as a girl, knew too she had dismissed feelings as she grew up.  Labeled them weak and unnecessary and did her best to avoid them and situations that required them.  The light in the kitchen flicked off at the Murphy’s house and she wondered if her mother had been right, if whatever had made Mrs. Murphy cry out like a wounded animal had ever been okay.  If you feel something that deeply, does the hurt ever go away?

        Daisy felt the ice on her face shift, crack.  She wished she could bring her hands to her face, push it way, but she couldn’t move her arms at all.  It was snowing now, gently and she could feel it hit her shoulders and head.  She wanted to stick out her tongue and catch a flake or two.  Loved doing that. 

        A wave of sadness passed over her, and with it another shift in her icy body.  Yes, she thought. All I have to do is feel, feel intensely and I will thaw, thaw enough to break out of this frozen body. 

        It wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be.  She thought about the obvious things first.  Mopsey, when he was hit by a car, her mother’s illness, her father’s death.  She thought about people she missed, her father and Billy’s ex-wife most of all.  She thought about men she had loved, but never enough.  The ice of her body cracked, but not enough to move.  She started to feel mad.  Mad that her sadness wasn’t sufficient. 

        She thought about Ryan, how he had told her she lacked warmth.  He had accused her of loving numbers more than him.  Numbers were predictable, she had said.  They always do the same thing.  They don’t come home late, they don’t eat the last peach and deny it.  Numbers are not flighty or emotional.  They don’t have to grow up.

        As she stood there, in the backyard, the only person out, and seemingly still awake in the neighborhood, it made her smile to think he had been right.  She lacked warmth.  Was never hot under the collar, never burning with desire, never in heat, fired up, ablaze.  Yes, funny as he was, he had been right.  Daisy felt a laugh coming on, remembered how he used to dance and sing this god awful math song he had made up, just to annoy her.  One and one equals you and me.  Add it up baby and see how much less your life would be, minus me. 

        Something shifted.  Her smile broke through and before she could stop it, she was laughing, loud and hard.  She felt the ice flake from her body, felt the heat of love rise.  Her heart beat strong and she found that if she picked up her foot, she could dance.  And she did.  Dance in the backyard, the snow squeaking under her shoes.  She kicked it up, watched it glitter in the night air.  Her whole body moving, she danced, the night sky her partner, the world, her dance floor.  She looked up at the sky, found the north star and made her wish.  She didn’t care how late it was, it was time to put numbers and logic away, try and erase all the lines she had drawn, the ones she would never have crossed, until now.