Dear grandma,

I did not have a good day today. I woke up aching, sore from cold and not enough sleep, and I went to work with a sense of quiet resignation: back to this, then, the same litanies of customer complaints and entitled do-this-for-me that in my darker moments I feel forms the boundaries of my job. I spent much of the day heartsick, for a variety of reasons.

And then I came home. I cleaned my kitchen: washed all the leftover dishes, scrubbed down the counters and the stove, and I made two apple pies. I used your knife, and your pie plate (although I confess, I cheated and bought pre-made crusts; it was a long day at work and I don’t have the patience today to make it from scratch. I’ll do better next time, I promise), and I thought of you while I made them. I’m thinking of you now.

It’s comforting to know that muscle memory doesn’t go away, or family memory, maybe, the sort of habit that is so thoroughly ingrained that we can’t help but inherit it: to sit, and chat, and let your hands do the work, slice-slice-slice-slice, wafers of white or yellow-gold apple flesh dropping into the bowl. My wife and I did it tonight, like I remember you and I doing while I was young enough not to appreciate it: sat down at our dining room table, and together peeled and sliced apples. Fifteen or sixteen of them, half Arkansas Black (a strong, tart, nicely crisp apple I just discovered; like a Granny Smith that doesn’t suck), and half my beloved Cortland (Cortland! Finally, I can find them here, at the farmer’s market – all the gorgeous natural sweetness that I grew up with, that is my favorite out of all the countless varieties anyone could offer).

There are pies in the oven now, and my house smells of apple and cinnamon and clove and pastry. And my heart, at the end of the day, is warm.

I miss you. But I have a pie plate, and a paring knife, and apples and muscle memory (because after all, the heart is a muscle, beat-beat-beating blood, and they say, don’t they, that pie runs in the family), and what that means is I still have you.

Love you, grandma. It was good to see you again. The mind’s eye is the sharpest.

Recurring dreams.

Used to have them in NY, before we moved down here… similar themes. I flew then, too.

My house burned down, this time. Big house, a composite of the houses I’ve lived in over my life; grandparents’ houses, aunts’ houses, certainly the house on Ray. Burned and abandoned with ghosts in it, dead friends or relatives that I didn’t bring with me, nameless and faceless now that I’m awake but bitter and angry in my dream. The house had burned and was blackened and ash-filled, and I’d gone back to salvage bits and bobs and things from the fridge, oddly. And escape meant flying on dragon-wings, leaving the ghosts behind with the lingering remnants and flying higher and away, following the damp from the firehoses that turned into rivulets and a swamp and then the ocean.

I’ve dreamt it twice, two consecutive nights.

Sequoia emerge from the ashes of forest fires. A friend of mine told me once that I’d do the same thing. Maybe it’s time.

I don’t have your email address anymore. Hoping the link finds you, and you click it, and you read all these words I’m scribbling while the thoughts are in my head. You’re in my head today, very much, and I think it’s time I let the ghost out.

I have unfinished business with you. No, don’t close the window! It’s not bad. Well, not really. Not for you. This is an apology.

I was horrible. I was broken, and not by you; grievously wounded, and not by you; deeply mourning, but not you. You were just… there. You, with all the innocence of a small bird fluttering to the ground inside a cattery, made yourself a target by doing what was unarguably best for you, and I was dreadful to you. I had a lifetime of fury and bloody gashes stored up and hidden away and I couldn’t hide the bloodstains anymore.

I am so terribly, terribly sorry. You recognised, probably entirely instinctively, what a mess I was inside, and understood that you couldn’t afford to get tangled up in it– and there were so very many threads to get snarled in. What a tattered, patternless spider’s web my head was… I don’t blame you for severing that particular tie.

And I realise for my own part that but for my stupidity and my unpardonable behaviour, we could still be friends. I burned that bridge. I stood in the middle of it and sprayed my acid bitterness like gasoline all over it and spitefully dropped the match that sent it uncontrollably blazing under my feet, and God help me, I welcomed the burn on my skin. The anger propped me up while I mourned… and again– I wasn’t mourning you.

You bore the punishment others earned.

I can only apologise, and this I do, here and now in the open, where anyone can see it, in the hopes that one of the anyones who do will be you. You deserved none of the vitriol I gave you. If I could take it back, I would. I spent a while not thinking about it all, because doing so hurt, and I wouldn’t look at why… but the why of it is simply that I’m ashamed of myself. I was dreadful to you. I am so incredibly sorry.

I’ve said hello a few times in the intervening years. Waved in passing, as it were, but nothing more than that, not really, because this has been in the way, the need for these words. I’ve kept tabs, a little bit, although it’s been difficult: you were always so private, and I’m closed out, now, so what I get are glimpses here and there, allowed me by mutual friends and acquaintances and what I can glean from the occasional writings I stumble upon. I hope you’re doing well. I hope you’re in a good place. I hope happiness for you, because I loved you once, and because I think of you fondly still. My regrets are twofold: that I behaved so terribly, and that the bridge is burned.

I wish sometimes I could build another, of different structure and design, one meant for longer friendship, rather than to close the gap I was trying then to define or, really, ignore. I don’t know if I can… but the wish is there.

TONIGHT IS A NIGHT FOR SCREAMING AND SPINNING IN CIRCLES AROUND AND AROUND OUTSIDE ON THE FROSTED GRASS

but the silence outside is immense. Cold cold cold with moon and stars up there hazy and overcast like someone dragged ripped gauze between me and the sky and there aren’t enough stars to stare at. They’ve all drifted down days ago, and when the sun came out next morning they fused together on top of the frozen ground. They’re a slick, shining sheet now, here and there where the shade kept it all safe and sound from the sun that tried like hell to make us think the cold would go away. If I stare at the ice and let my eyes unfocus just a bit, it looks like water, or the stretching slide of glacier or pack-ice, of which there is increasingly too little, we are told.

Winter always did spark something wild in me, but I’m older and wisdom has made me afraid, so I don’t go out there anymore, and I no longer let the wildness jerk me forward like a fishhook in my heart. I can ignore the tug, though sometimes, on nights like this one especially, it still hurts like I imagine does the phantom pain of a missing limb. But I remember the cool span of moonlight slicing down through a night so blackly crystalline that it brought tears to the eyes, physical pain and sharpness. I remember the pale light of it washing the snow and making something close to daylight out of midnight, or two a.m. I remember the crunch of snow under my feet, snow that nobody else had walked on, and I remember what it felt like, the huge, expansive awe-fulness of imagining that no-one else had or would see something so beautiful as unsullied snow under a moon bright enough to sear the vision.

Does snow still smell like the taste of tin? Does the scent of it still become almost a taste at the tip of the tongue the moment the flakes start to fall?