Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Drifting Off

Falling asleep. That is what freezing to death feels like according to the experts who evidently tell the tale from the other side. I doubt it. The times I’ve been cold enough to believe I could die, the shivers turned to racking shakes. Granules form under swollen skin like finely crushed glass in a balloon. Frozen clothes resist movement. You notice the oomf you need to just scrape the snotcicles from the ruff of your parka. Your stiff Sorels hurt. The breeze hurts. Your mind hurts from knowing you created your own condition. My hands still remember, and hurt again when they get chilled. I don’t recommend it; a cold death.
But then! You fall through the door and peel all the layers into the drip pan, bare feet burning on the stone floor that always feels so cool to the first touch of morning. Stoke the fire with the dense logs, the Christmas logs you saved, the logs that will burn for nearly the full eight hours the stove salesman said it would. You fluff the old military mummy bag too close to the heat. You hurry, because you can feel it folding around you; the dead cold sleep. You choose a dog, the right dog, the dog that squints from embarrassment and gratitude at being allowed near the fire. Do not choose a person, even one who believes what they read about the correct way to nakedly warm a frigid body, because they will fidget, and squeal, and be purse-lipped offended when you find your coma. A dog is better. The dog won’t move unless the bag or the dog catches fire.
The sleep after freezing is unlike any other. There is little chance you'll put lotion on your chapped face and hands or swill a warm drink before the gravel-eyes and the aftershock shivers will overcome you. With an oversized head and a one eyed exchange of glances with the dog, you die. You don't dream, your mind can't spare the effort. You will drool on the guest pillow you slid from the couch. Passersby will pause to watch for chest movement. The weak winter sun will peek through the window and scan your prone length without registering a twitch. The sleep after freezing provides one of those rare times when mind, body, and nature combine in one of lifes' fullest possible experiences, the complete sleep. Wakefullness brings a little regret, but also a feeling of rebirth.
Like the Ghostbuster character who was forced to choose the form of his own destruction (marshmallowman), we think too much about death. But my choice is clearly not among those who think hypothermia an easy way to go. I'd rather sleep myself to death.

1 comment:

Scribbit said...

Grim--you're right. This time of year I'm always thinking about those who don't have the benefit of a bed inside.