May 22, 2021

EXORDIUM

Photo by Keith Jonson on Unsplash

The following is a revision of a descriptive essay I wrote for my composition class during the 2018 fall semester at Sul Ross State University.

If the Flir ever happen to see this...thank you for the music. You were Golden.

❅ ❅ ❅

I sift through the music playlist on my phone, searching for the perfect auditory experience for the winter scene I’m about to write. I’m looking for something in particular—something that evokes cold, lonely nights, crunchy snow drifts, sharp icicles, and the sting of the frigid air in my lungs with each breath. I find it in The Flir’s inaugural album Please, Please, Please.

I press “play” and lose myself in the white space of the blank Word document. At once, the music chills me and warms me to the bone, and suddenly it’s the winter of 2007. I’m sitting in the security office in the facility, listening to this very same music, shivering despite the thermals underneath my uniform. The stark walls contrast the blackness outside the large bay window. Hidden somewhere within that blackness is snow—more snow than I’d seen in years. Records had been racking up in the area for weeks, making this the coldest, snowiest January in fifteen years.

This facility sits in a half-mile clearing surrounded by acres of forest, twenty-five miles from the nearest town. I’ve been posted here for a month and a half now and despite the cold, I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. I love the quiet, the isolation, and the complete lack of supervision. When I'm not making rounds I can read a book or play Tetris on my old flip phone. Unlike my last post, there are no monitors, no rude employees, and no guests. There is only quiet.

There are three separate buildings on the grounds, meaning a patrol involves heading out into the night to travel in the open. The cloud cover seems so low that I can reach up and touch it; it acts like a mirror, reflecting the ambient light to produce an ethereal glow, allowing me to see perfectly across the site without a flashlight. I savor the crunch of my boot soles through the iced-over top layer of snow; my leg sinks deep into the powdery layer beneath it, clear up to the calf.

I pull the earbuds from my pocket and plug them into an old mp3 player. It’s a chunky, black rectangle and can only hold about twenty or thirty songs—certainly not much compared to that new iPod I’ve heard so much about—but I’m happy with it. The first song that plays is Phere by the Flir. I’m walking through the snow, crunch crunch crunch, the countryside awash in a mystical glow. Snowflakes fall lazily, tickling my nose and eyebrows. All of these things mash together inside my head, crafting a portrait the way an artist uses oil colors on canvas. I won’t realize it until nearly a decade later, though.

Two months later, I move to San Antonio and marry the love of my life. I don't know anything of cold except around Christmastime, when I can see my breath at night yet still wear shorts and sandals comfortably. I realize that, though I don't miss shoveling the drive or trudging down slushy streets, I do miss the cold. Later, I have a hard time remembering what it's even like; I’ve forgotten how it feels to own an ice scraper, how it looks when the sun begins to set by three o’clock in the afternoon, or the bizarre sensation of snot suddenly freezing in my nostrils when I step outside. I shiver whenever it’s below fifty degrees. I've heard it’s because my blood has actually thinned over time since I moved south, helping me acclimate to the climate. My wife laughs, saying she broke me by making me move to Texas.

Now I sit at my desk, looking at the blank screen and listening to the Flir for the first time in ten years, and it’s like I never left. I hear every crunch of my boot in the snow drifts, shiver at every frigid gust of wind, wince at the ache in my chest from breathing in the icy air. In the time it takes to press play, I experience that night all over again and realize how much I miss it, how I yearn for that little office with the humming fluorescent lights and its great, black window, how I miss the feeling of itchy thermals under my uniform and the taste of stale coffee swirling in a styrofoam cup from the staff break room.

...And before I know it, a story is born.