Snow scattered softly around my ears and eyelashes while I waited for him to open the door. It was metal. Slate blue. Cold like the Alaska winter. Which is a lot like a Colorado winter. The snow crunching. The flakes hushing. January sky swirled pink with wonder. Right before it snows, the sky takes a deep breath and holds it for a minute. If you pay attention, you can feel the earth breathe.
It was a cheap apartment in a non-descript part of town. But they were young, happy, practical. It was all they could afford. He opened the door to the hallway and I followed him. My nose, still adjusting to the frigid air, burned when I took my first breath going up the stairs. Acrid. Pungent. Marlboro. Black. “Wow. It smells like smoke in here.” We plodded up the padded stairs. Padded with cheap blue carpet, the flat all-purpose kind, stained and rumpled like a homeless drunk passed out under I-5.
The walls, ruined and gray from the smoke, reflected the rude, yellow light exposing flaws in everything. I closed my eyes, focusing instead on the sounds; there was something good about this place. The muffled clomping and wooded groaning. Clomp, clomp, clomp. I closed my eyes and ascended the remaining stairs, imagining metal grates where the carpet was, the grinding plastic and clanking metal of rigid ski boots, and clingy, melted snow. The cigarette smoke burning my nose became instead hot, melting wax, applied to the bottom of my skis by a tall, blonde, bearded youth, not unlike the one in front of me. I was transported to the snowy winters of my youth, while he lead me up the stairs, through the doorway of his.