Ninety pounds crunches along through October’s first wintry blanket. Its wintry sting kisses my earlobes. Perhaps folly drives me forward into the night air, with frost painting my lungs as I suck it in deep. Greg natters on about Mozart, but I can barely hear from my teeth clattering. Clusters of wet flakes flit across the bluish light of the streetlamp and I only now think that we made a spur-of-the-moment mistake. Two rods of light prick my eyes as a cop car rounds 12th street and slows as it gets near. Officer Sterenberg can only gawk at us, puzzled, as he slides by. I cough in protest as the exhaust from his tailpipe assaults my nostrils.
Although I cannot see the front of my scarf, I have a hunch that dinky ice pills dangle off of it. I look at my best friend. The front of his balaclava that covers his mouth churns out clouds of steam as he insists that the melody from Symphony No. 40 inspired the chorus from “Stayin’ Alive.” This life-changing dialogue that we engage in causes me to question the wisdom of speaking at all under such frigid conditions.
However, in my heart, I know we walk a noble trek. The danger of frostbite and the risk of pneumonia notwithstanding, anyone burdened with a duty such as ours commits to see it through. Sure, I acknowledge that tradition plays a role in it all and both of us would concede mild insanity to regularly do what we do, but to wear the bulky uniform comes with responsibility. We push on, as we have every day for years.
“The Bee-Gees and Mozart have nothing in common except poufy hair.” My rebuttal is both brilliant and timely as we round the bend, gazing at the now-familiar sign. We never notice, but others watching might say that the urgency in our step picks up at this point. I can feel the caress of indoor heating as we approach the glassy entrance and stomp the last three miles off our boots. “All this for Coke Slurpees,” I think as we scurry into the warmth of 7-Eleven.