★★★★ Even through the blinds, to eyes without contact lenses, the world was newly brightened all around—not inherently bright, with dawn still under the pall of the gentle storm, but evenly bright, the gray-blue light of the sky shining back from the roofs and the balcony rails and the parked cars. The snow traced the branching, multiplying twigs of the still-bare trees, narrowing yet holding on all the way out to the tips, and it stuck to the sides of balcony railings, for now. None of it would last; the streets and sidewalks had remained black and clear. Things moved on their usual paths. The flakes were almost too tiny to see individually in the early dimness, but they hid the river and brought the city down to the near and middle distance. An upright dark line floated in the sky, like a hawk perched on nothing. It took the binoculars to sort it out: It was the center post atop a water tower, left alone on a blank background as the conical roof below had gone white and vanished. For years the tank roof must have been in view, peeking out of its rectangular bulkhead on the apartment building, unnoticeable until it disappeared. Outside, after the luminous blue had gone over to gray, there were still prettily swirling little flakes. Forty-five minutes later, they could be felt but barely seen. Warmth from the ground had carried up the vertical pickets of the low fences around the tree-planting beds, melting the snow on the plain flat top rail at intervals, so the surviving humps of white marched along in rhythm with the pattern of the city’s approved Type “B” tree guard design. A bit of cloud caught on the spire of the Empire State Building, giving a measurement to the blurry sky. The morning snow was due to be over, yet still there were little flakes showing against dark backgrounds. The barber ran clippers through the neglected thatch of hair around the ears and when it had fallen away, in the mix of daylight and shop light, a little unambiguous spot of silver stayed there, bright and sure as a dime. Someone came in the door and the air that had followed them made the warmth of the hot towel ebb quickly. The snow had truly stopped now below the Flatiron, and patches of sunshine and blue were glimmering into being, yet back uptown the gray had settled in again, and a few new minuscule flakes were on the air. One might somehow have veered between the buttons of the flannel shirt, a ghostly fleck of sharp cold. The ears, meanwhile, were getting chilled steadily. Some of the accumulated snow had slipped away but it still clung to the face of the television on the luxury roof deck. Snowflakes blew more thickly for a while, then subsided as the sky lightened. When it darkened again, what was falling looked like rain. Or was it snow? An arm thrust out the window caught little bits of it in the wrist hairs—some sort of granules, more like snow to look at but falling straight down. At last that went away, too. The trees had lost their tracery, and the furniture of the luxury roof deck, its white covering worn away, lay scattered like debris. The water-tower roof was dark again, with one last streak of white on it. The edge of a metal vent gleamed, and windows cast bright spots on neighboring bricks. Every fugitive bit of light might be the last one. A ray of sun sparkled on lumpy ice on the neighbor’s balcony, crossed over to cut through the living room, and hit the inmost corner of the children’s bunk bed. It lit the magnetic words in disarray on the blank side of the filing cabinet, “she will was us want as has by sun.” That beam thinned as the sun began to descend behind a patch of cloud. Not far below the cloud were the new towers downriver, waiting their turn to shut it off. Sundown proper was colorless and indistinct. There was light, and then it went dark. The children set their alarm: before the next sunrise, they would be up looking for the lunar eclipse.
6 years ago