Snow falls in many ways. In late autumn wet snow floats down in small clumps. It falls so thickly that you think the world will drown in snow, but the flakes melt soon after landing. In midwinter the snow is dry, with flakes like fine needles that seek you out and sting your cheeks and make you wish you’d stayed indoors. Sleet is snow and rain falling together and you can scarcely call it snow, except that it accumulates on roads and sidewalks and makes quite a mess of it for pedestrians at the crossings, not so much here but in the city where people actually get places by walking. There is light snow and heavy snow and snow that is so soft it doesn’t seem to fall but to gather imperceptibly until there are two or three inches of it on tree branches, the picnic table, the dog dish, the lawnmower you left out in the yard the last time you cut the grass. Tonight the snow is not falling but flying sideways. The wind is very strong, thirty miles an hour, the television said, eight to twelve inches expected, the flakes as fine and sharp as ground glass.
Daniel Arcilla remembers walking with a friend in Paris after a snowfall dressed the city in white. It was the first time Daniel had seen snow and he danced giddily around his friend, who looked gravely at him and said, You Cubans suffer from a prenatal nostalgia for snow. The Frenchman was right. Cubans hate the heat almost as much as they hate the beach and the tropical sun, which beats down mercilessly most of the year and drives them to shade, wherever they may find it. Daniel never became used to the desperation of summer afternoons when the air was as thick as molasses and as difficult to breathe. He understands now why the sidewalks of old Havana are lined with arcades where one can walk out of the sun from one end of the city to the other. He is enthralled by snow, wants it to keep coming down until the roads become impassable and New Jersey comes to a complete stop. Utter stillness, that’s what he longs for most, and only the snow can provide that. On winter nights he sits for hours in front of the window, remembering his visits to Paris and Prague and the year he spent in Moscow, surrounded by tough Russians, his favorite people, and their vodka, without which they would not be so tough.
I know Pablo Medina is coming to visit us and read from his poetry, but I couldn’t help admiring this novel opening I found on Bucknell’s page. Fall reading series, guys … It’s coming.