Southerners seem to fear snow as intensely as Yankees fear grits and sweet tea. The moment the first flake descends, everyone jumps into a car and drives, as recklessly as possible, to the nearest grocery store to buy enough food to avoid starvation during the three hours they will be confined to home.
At the same time, though, people go nuts with joy to see the world blanketed in powdery white stuff. My partner Wayne is like that. If he hears a report that snow is expected in Highlands, N.C., he rushes to our mountain house to see it. When we spent a week in Switzerland one Christmas, I thought he was going to have a breakdown from excessive happiness.
Me? I don't get so excited. When I was a kid living near Philadelphia, I saw enough of it to cause my Southern mother to binge-shop repeatedly in grocery stores. And my strongest childhood memory of snow is sitting on a roadside curb, eating the stuff. A car came to a stop in front of me; the driver rolled down the window and barked, "Don't eat that snow! It's full of nuclear fallout!" It was bad enough to have to hide under my desk during nuclear drills at school. Now this!
My strangest experience with snow occurred when I was 25 – not so many decades ago – while I was living in Augusta. At the time, I was living in an apartment complex owned by the family of my first partner, Rick. It was dirt cheap and rented mainly to Army families stationed at nearby Fort Gordon.
Our next-door neighbor, however, was a stripper and prostitute who lived with a huge snake and what appeared to be her pimp. The snake, a boa, was part of her act at a local club. Occasionally, we crossed paths in the parking lot, and she always offered to let me pet the snake. She would kiss it and call it "baby," making cooing sounds like an erotic snake charmer.
Rick and I used to sit with an ear to the paper-thin wall, listening to her and the man arguing, usually about her not making enough money to please him. The screaming was frequently punctuated by the sound of something getting broken, followed by a scary groan. One time, a foot literally came through the wall while we were sleeping. The more interesting sound effects occurred when she was entertaining a customer.
On the day it snowed, she and her pimp/boyfriend had the loudest fight we'd ever heard. It was clear he was hitting her, and we debated whether to call the police. Instead, we banged on the wall and shouted for them to cool it. The fighting abruptly stopped and the next thing we heard was our doorbell. It was the prostitute, clad in a rabbit-fur coat and a miniskirt, with her snake in a cage. She asked if she could take refuge in our apartment for a few hours.
We let her in and while I made some coffee, she asked if we minded if she let the snake out of the cage. Rick and I looked at one another, panicky, but we said, sure, that would be fine. She lifted the huge animal out of the cage and let it coil around her body, while she chain-smoked and told the snake how much she loved him. Rick and I sat opposite her, terrified. "He's better than any man," she said. "Yes, I love you, I really do!" The beady-eyed creature turned toward us and stuck his tongue out.
After a few hours, the boyfriend left and our guest decided to return to her apartment. But it wasn't long before the man returned and another argument ensued. We heard slamming doors and the woman crying hysterically. Then things got quiet. We decided to walk to the corner convenience store for a break from the drama and to play in the snow a bit.
Outside, we noticed drops of blood in the snow, which we followed like a trail to the swimming pool of the apartment complex. There, lying in the snow, was the snake, stretched out dead.
We hurried back to the woman's apartment and knocked on the door. The man answered. We asked for her, and she shouted in the background that she was OK. "Mind your own fuckin' business. Snow makes people go crazy," the man said, slamming the door shut.
The snow slowly melted during the next few days, and the woman cried almost continually. We pressed our hands to the wall, feeling her grief. A cab arrived and she rode away, never to return. The man moved in another woman.
Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology. For information on his private practice, go to www.cliffbostock.com.
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