I always try to tell Anna that it’s not the cold that gets you — it’s the wind. “But forty-six below?” she says, “You’re insane!” Of course, she laughs when she says it, and even over the static of the hallway phone, over the unimaginable miles, I could see her, eyes dancing. Her eyes say what they always say when she laughs.
She said she was meeting her girlfriends in the morning for coffee; she’s probably there now, bragging about that crazy husband of hers: “Oh, and then Nicolai tells me, ‘It’s not bad, only forty-six below.’” And they’ll all squeal together in horror, mock or real, it doesn’t matter, and Sheila and that squeaky woman whose name I could never remember will launch into a diatribe about how they wouldn’t dare let their husband go off to Antarctica.
She says she never imagined the status boost she would pick up by just sending me off — that’s the way she says it: “sending me off,” like I’m a kid getting bumped out the door on my way to school. But not only is she suddenly the most interesting woman on the block, my absence has become a perfect all-purpose excuse: “Oh, I’d love to come, but as you know Nicolai is away at the South Pole, so I have my hands full here…”
“I’ve got to be honest — it’s the best thing that’s happened to me since we married,” she says. “Socially, I mean; I’ll admit that the sex is much better when you’re around.” And there’s that laugh again. Even here, half a world away, across continents, oceans and an endless sea of ice, I can hear that laugh.
That laugh was the first thing I heard of her, echoing across the somber lecture hall that morning back in Boston. To hear Anna’s laugh was to hear music and to know that all was right with the world. To hear anything now, anything besides the graveling of my boots on ice, would feel a blessing.
The ice sounds different here, even different now. Those first days, when it really was that cold, it had an elastic feel to it; it squealed under your boots, like you were walking on styrofoam. The trek downwind from station out to the radio shed was squeak, squeak, squeak all the way, like…damn, what was her name?
And with the wind at your back, you never feel the cold, never feel the distance you cover. If the sun is out, it’s a lovely stroll, and it’s not too hard to imagine continuing right on past the shed, past the snow berms at the End of the World. You could keep going, and it would be a good five hundred kilometers before you hit the Central Trans-Antarctic Mountains, with nothing but squeak, squeak, squeak and the endless, unvarying waves of ice under your feet.
Of course, coming back is a different story. Once you’ve reset the damned circuit breaker or traced and swapped out whatever cable has failed, you know the walk back, into the teeth of the wind, will take everything you’ve got out of you. Before that walk, before the first time, I’d never understood that thing about the cold “cutting through you like a knife” — it sounded a bit too much like artistic license. But Jesus, when the wind is up? More than once I’ve stopped halfway to look downwind, behind me, and wondered if it would be easier to just turn around and see how far I got.
I guess the joke was on me now.
Oh what I’d give for a little wind. Any wind.
You need special conditions for an ice fog like this: temps about as high as they’re bound to get all season. Minus ten, I think it said on the station scroll. And the air dead still, like a morning in the desert. Then something happens with sublimation and thermal radiation and whatever it was Rolf talked about last week at Sunday Science, and the fog comes up like a ghost from the grave. So thick you can’t…no, that’s hyperbole; I can see my fingertips. Boots, too, and the ground for maybe a meter or two ahead until it blends, white and seamless, into that nothingness where there should be sky.
It’ll burn off, eventually, I suppose. What did Rolf say? Usually didn’t last more than a day or two. A day or two. And at least it’s warm.
I try shouting again: “Hellooo! Anyone?” Nothing.
“Go,” Anna had said. “Go — you need this.” And she’d said it joyfully, not like my leaving marked some deficiency of our love, but like she understood how it embodied the strange balance of our marriage.
For Anna, the world was unimaginably deep; she plumbed its depths through towers of Spinoza and Schopenhauer stacked haphazardly in her study. And she emerged at the end of each day gasping for air, clutching some new-found insight to her chest like a pearl diver who had, once again, pushed herself just a little too far to grasp an elusive treasure.
I sometimes told her that I might be shallow, but I was broad. And of course she’d poke at my belly and blame it on the pepperoni. But she knew what I meant, and she embraced our differences.
“Telling you not to go and see this big, beautiful world of yours? You might as well take away my books. Go. You know where to find me when you’re ready to come back.” Her friends, my friends, they both thought we were nuts. But somehow, in the quiet midnight, we always met in the middle.
And yes, more irony — if only the world were not so large right now.
Years ago, it must be, I remember snorting over the breakfast table about some Science News article explaining how people lost in the desert will naturally walk in giant circles. Maybe stupid people, I said, who didn’t keep track of the sun or stars. Oh wait — there’s even more irony: unless the fog clears, my only hope is that I have been walking in a giant circle, and that if I keep going I’ll stumble back on some familiar landmark.
When we walk back to station from the radio shed we have the cat tracks to follow. And if there’s a storm brewing, Facilities will set up a flag line: bamboo poles every thirty feet or so, and hi-vis nylon running the length between. Of course we always take a radio — stupid to go out without a radio. But who takes a radio for a midnight scamper out to the Ice Palace?
On the site plan, that array of diesel-heated canvas tents south of the main station is labeled “Overflow Summer Housing.” But it’s just been called “Summer Camp” for as long as anyone can remember. And I’m sure there’s an official name for the godawful post-and-plywood structure that serves as Summer Camp’s bathroom facilities. But I’ve never heard it called anything but the “Ice Palace.”
It only takes a couple of midnight dashes out to the Ice Palace before you get used to stashing a pee bottle below your bunk. It usually takes a couple more dashes before you remember to empty it each morning, but the shock of stepping out from a cozy bunk into forty below with a full bladder drives the message home pretty quickly.
The thing is, I forgot last night. We’d been running ourselves ragged trying to cram two months of science into the scant three weeks remaining in the season, and everyone was bone tired and edgy.
I’d stopped by Summer Camp lounge to unwind on my way back from station. Had a couple of drinks and listened while Heller, Ed and the gang swapped stories. But I was tired, godawful tired, so I made my excuses and headed for home.
“Home,” down here means J-7, the tent I share with nine other Summer Campers, smack dab in the middle of the leeward row. It’s about 50 yards downwind from the Ice Palace, which is itself about a quarter mile downwind of the station itself. That is, when there is any wind.
Most folks settle on a routine of bringing their pee bottle to the Ice Palace on their way into the station, emptying it, and leaving it in one of the cubbies across from the shower stalls. You pick it up on your way back at the end of the day and stash it under your bunk, on the floor up against the canvas wall, so it freezes up and doesn’t smell.
Sleep took me almost immediately, but my dreams were filled with the insistent sound of a distant waterfall. The pulsating red lines on my clock said it was 2:53 a.m. when two consequences of the evening’s detour clawed their way into my uneasy slumber: First, my bladder was more than ready to be relieved of the good cheer I’d acquired on the way home. And second, in the glow of that good cheer, I’d clean forgotten to pick up my pee bottle.
But sleep…. I made it to 3:20 before my plaintive bladder could not be quieted. I knew from the start I wouldn’t last until morning, but the calculus of delayed discomfort kept me tucked under my comforter until the real question became whether I could actually make it out to the Ice Palace in time.
Stepping out from the dark, womb-like tent into the everlasting Antarctic glare was always an attention-getter. Stepping out into this fog was disorienting, more than anything. But I knew the way in my sleep: the angle from J-7’s curving olive-drab sidewall was just so — and no sooner had it faded off my right than the boxy blue rectangle of the Ice Palace loomed in the mist ahead.
Taking care of the business at hand required no more than a minute — I’d just pulled Big Red and my Carhartts on, so there wasn’t all that much undressing to do. Stepped into my bunny boots and headed out the door.
I left the Ice Palace flush with the relief of an empty bladder and strolled unquestioningly out into the white. Crunch, crunch crunch — remember, the ice sounds different when it gets warm like this. It was early Sunday morning, and when brunch rolled around, they’d probably have mascarpone French toast in the galley, and that reminded me of the place in Somerville where Anna took me that first morning we woke up together.
A dozen steps in, I stopped to adjust my overalls, looked back up and continued on toward the faint gray silhouette of J-7.
Only it wasn’t. The gray shifted as I approached, distended and then dissolved, a mere trick of the fog. I wasn’t worried — the way Summer Camp was laid out, it would be hard to imagine a random walk that didn’t collide or come within an arm’s reach of at least one of the tents. I took another dozen steps, peered around, altered course a little to the left, then took another dozen. Even then I wasn’t worried. Puzzled, to say the least, but not yet worried.
The worry didn’t set in until after I’d turned around and retraced my three dozen steps back to the Ice Palace. Of course, there was no Ice Palace in sight when I stumbled to an uncomprehending halt. But it was when I looked down at my feet that panic first sounded its distant clarion call.
The snow around Summer Camp was pretty well beaten down by the constant foot traffic. The occasional Sprite or snow machine might tear up a track one way or the other, but by and large, the texture underfoot was an amorphous mix of soft-pack mush. But now, underfoot, I found only the undulating, serpentine waves of wind-carved sastrugi. Even at these temperatures, they were hard and unyielding; you might be able to chip at one with a good kick from your boot, but my casual passage left no mark on them.
I turned around a couple of times looking for my footprints; in retrospect, that was my second mistake. I suppose if I had simply stopped the moment I realized I’d left the soft pack, I would have had a decent chance of regaining it by just doing a one-eighty and backtracking.
But no, after two or three turns, I no longer had any idea which way I’d come. Yes, I had the presence of mind to stop and — over the sound of my now-quickening heartbeat — listen. As remote as the South Pole is, there’s always plenty of noise: the hum of the powerplant in the distance, the constant clank of a tractor or bulldozer pushing or dragging the insistent snow from wherever it shouldn’t be to wherever it should.
But the air hung in an unnatural silence, tractors subdued by the inadvisability of driving anywhere in such poor conditions. And the powerplant…well, it had to be still running, didn’t it? But if it were, the fog deadened whatever sound it made, muffling everything like a comforter thrown over the whole plateau.
When Anna and I married, my grandmother gave us a comforter, an enormous stuffed quilt, filled with something like five kilos of goose down. I think it had been intended to go under us as a feather bed, but somehow I always found myself burrowing under it, welcoming its weight on my back as I slept. Anna was mystified the first few times she reached out to find me in the night and came up empty handed between the covers.
The comforter that now waited for me back in J-7, patient and forlorn, was Anna’s nod to that gift: a smaller, more compact memento of our bed I could bring with me.
You know, that “smothering comforter” metaphor was all wrong. It was more like a smothering…nothingness, the dizzying, disorienting feeling that the world has simply gone away. I wondered if this was what it felt like to have suddenly gone blind.
I don’t know why I expected an echo, but it was like I’d hollered into a pillowcase. I hollered again, just to hear the nothingness that came back. I was no longer in the least bit sleepy.
Eventually I was going to have to find Summer Camp. Or the runway, or cargo berms or Spoolhenge. The RF shed. Anything. Anything but endless white. For all the vast emptiness, we’ve left a lot of shit on the ground around here.
When I was nine, Bobby and I used to go out to the park at night. I guess it was a different time, back then — no one thought anything of a couple of kids roaming the neighborhood at night. And we’d start in a corner of the playing fields, close our eyes and run, as fast and far as we dared. There were variations on the game: sometimes we’d hold hands, sometimes we’d scream at the top of our lungs as we ran — something to give us, if nothing else, an inkling that we weren’t alone as we hurtled, blind and reckless in the dark.
Bobby always seemed to make it just a little farther. It never occurred to me that he might be cheating, might be stealing an undetectable peek. I simply assumed that, as my elder by an unfathomable two years, he was just that much better than me in every way. Besides, it would have been worse than pointless to look — it would have defeated the whole purpose of the game.
I wondered if Bobby ever taught his kids that game. No, no — they’d been too young. Would they discover it on their own, the way we did? Or was the loss of a father at that age enough of a blind hurtle through the darkness?
I supposed I could run, too. No danger of hitting a tree, at least. Hitting anything would be a blessing.
I’d never tried running in bunny boots — they really were clown shoes, puffy, white and ridiculous. But you can just step right into them, no need to lace anything up. After all, I was just skipping out to the Ice Palace to take a pee, wasn’t I? They’re heavy, though, and each step required swinging my feet out a little.
I was winded after a dozen meters. No, this was stupid. At best, I’d sweat and soak my thermals, then freeze. At worst, I’d trip on the damned sastrugi and crack my head open. Yup, that’s how they’d find me: a long red windblown streak on the ice. Except that, you know, there’s no wind.
The sastrugi! Jesus Christ, I was an idiot. I heard Anna laugh: “But why do you never believe me when I say it?” The wind. The ridges of the sastrugi, those eternal, maddening, frozen waves of ice — their ridges lined up with the wind. A wind that damned near 364 days of the year blows true from grid north.
So I’d been stumbling over the largest compass on the continent ever since I left the path. I was laughing — when I got back I’d make a point of telling Anna that she was right all along.
And it would make a good story, too. Everyone who’s been here more than a year or two has their own “No shit, there I was…” story. Back home, it’s easy to feel like a true Antarctic badass. You lean back with your double cappuccino and hold forth about “The Ice” to friends like you’re the real thing. Even if down here you were just an indoor house pet, and the most perilous part of your day was explaining yet again to one of the Cubies that no, the internet is down, and when the internet is down, there’s no Facebook. So yeah, this was going to make a good story when I got home.
Of course, I wasn’t home yet. But I did have one more piece of the puzzle that might get me there. The next step was figuring out which of the two possible directions along these slanting, snowy swirls was north. Yeah, yeah, everywhere’s north from here. But grid north, north along the prime meridian, the shortest line to Greenwich, to London, and to that ridiculously proper little flat where Anna grew up.
I didn’t believe her at first, that she was from London. Even better, a proper Cockney, born within earshot of the Bowery bells. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her. When I peered across the lecture hall that morning, trying to trace the source of that beautiful laughter, I would have sworn that an elf had somehow snuck into class to cause mischief. A Nordic elf, tall, thin and pale, straight out of the dog-eared fairy tale books my mother used to read me and Bobby at bedtime. I chased her down afterwards on some feeble excuse, and when she turned to look, her eyes swallowed me whole.
After the Arabian Nights, our mother told us stories about the Turkish sultans. How they chose the fairest-skinned maidens from the harem, captured or bartered from European rivals, to sire their heirs. And how generation by generation, the swarthy Anatolians found their sovereigns growing tall, thin and rosy-cheeked. Those stories came back to me that morning. No, I saw all at once: she wasn’t an elf — she was a princess. Royalty descended from ancient lines, stolen back by her Northern ancestors, but forever betrayed by deep olive-toned eyes that spoke of incense, caravans, and a shimmering oasis in the desert.
And here I was, lost in another desert — yes, a real desert. At least that’s what they told us: two miles of ice beneath our feet, and yet one of the largest deserts in the world. Less than seven centimeters of precip per year — made the Sahara a bloody water park by comparison.
I dropped to one knee then the other in turn and cinched up my boots. Not that I had far to go. But there’s something to the superstition about mistakes following each other. You do something right, however trivial, and you can’t help but have a better chance of getting the next thing right, too.
It was more effort to stand than I had expected. My adrenaline had already faded, and the heavy hand of fatigue rested again on my shoulder. I could just close my eyes and rest here a minute before setting out again, couldn’t I?
No, that was the cold speaking. Out here, to sleep, even for a moment, was death. Laces tied, I stood and brushed the imagined snow off my knees, contemplating the uneven lines stretching out at my feet. Here went nothing, and everything.
One step. Then another, and another, like it was a walk in the park. I’d reach Summer Camp, the runway or the radio shed, or at least some cat tracks before I knew it. I just had to keep walking.
Following the wind line brought its own rhythm, a gentle bobbing left and right so that my oversized feet remained centered in the shallow troughs.
Bobby was seventeen when he took me climbing out by Leavenworth. He’d had his driver’s license for what — something like three weeks then — and wanted to show me the place they’d taken him the summer before at camp. He was going to show me the ropes, he said. Except our hike out to the site didn’t go quite as expected. Maybe we missed a switchback, or maybe we didn’t even have the right turnout. But two hours after we’d given up on making the climb, we were still trying to find our way back to the car. I kept my eyes on his shoes as we teetered down the narrow ridgetop footpath, afraid to look out at the enormity of the space around me. One foot in front of the other, over and over again in a measured, mindful rhythm.
How many steps had it been now? I should have been keeping track. And of course I didn’t have my watch — I was just scampering out to the Ice Palace to pee. But ten minutes should have been more than enough. At least it felt like ten minutes. Maybe I was just going in the wrong direction. Retracing my steps would be easy now, at least to the place I started my sastrugi-aligned perambulation.
I went back out to Leavenworth years later, on my own. Not to find that climb or anything — just to walk, to remember. It felt like a small piece of some haphazardly-drawn puzzle he’d left behind. I picked a destination almost at random out of the guide book and followed the trail up, somehow always watching the place ahead on the path where his feet would have been.
Anna was the one who saved me when he died. Every time I looked up from my work and came unmoored in the realization that he was gone, she was the one who pulled me back to earth.
“Talk to me,” she said, and I did. I told her the story about when Bobby and I camped on the beach, too close to high tide. Some time after midnight, the first wave took down one of our tent poles and we woke drenched and disoriented, swamped in nylon and wet sleeping bags.
“Show me,” she said, and we drove out to the coast that same night. We shared a driftwood campfire with a couple of strangers on holiday from New York, and watched the autumn sky turn silently over a moonless ocean.
For every story I had, for every place we’d gone, Anna took me there, too. Walked me through the memories and helped make new ones to mingle with the old. We…
A black flag loomed out of the mist. I would have missed it if I hadn’t happened to glance up at that moment. It hung limp on the bamboo pole, a couple of steps off the furrow I’d been tracing.
The adrenaline was back: out here, a black flag meant danger. It meant buried structures, or a crevasse.
But at least I had a landmark. And where there was one black flag, there would be others. A line of them, most likely, one side safe, the other with lurking peril.
Nothing. But it was worth a try.
When Amundsen raced Scott to the South Pole, he left ice cairns a few miles around it, pointing south, and topped by black flags. He wrote — condescendingly, I thought — that it was to help his beaten adversary verify the location of the true Pole. Scott’s journal tells of how the last trace of his courage left him when he saw the first of those flags.
And now I had my own flag to contend with. I pulled off one of the gloves I’d fished from my parka and set it down in the furrow, fingers pointing the direction I’d been walking. Five steps got me to the flag, faded and frayed by at least a winter or two, and I circled it gingerly at several paces, looking for any of its companions.
Nothing. Returning to my glove and orbiting it in the same fashion yielded nothing either. Tangents and ellipses spilled into my mind. Between the glove and the flag, there had to be some optimal path for exploring my surroundings, but I could come up with nothing more convincing than just following the furrow I’d been on since setting out. At least I had a landmark now: as long as I attended to orientation of the sastrugi, I could go a few dozen steps in any direction. Eenie, meenie, miney… oh hell, might as well keep going the way I had been.
Ten steps along, the flag was gone behind me. Ten more, then another ten. Okay — no more flags this way. I’d backtrack and try exploring at right angles.
Twenty five steps later, the flag was still not in sight. Twenty six, twenty seven…. I counted all the way to forty, peering both ways as my steps slowed. I couldn’t have missed it, could I? I turned again and counted a dozen measured paces in my original direction. Nothing.
“GODDAMMIT!!!!!!” The words came spontaneously, but shouting them felt strangely liberating. I gathered my breath and tried out a few stronger expletives. Somehow, letting all that frustration out strengthened me, lifted my spirits and warmed my soul.
Stomping worked, too. I caught myself looking around, then almost laughed aloud at my concern that someone might see. So why not a full-blown tantrum? I leaped as high as I could and stamped down with both feet at the same time, unleashing a string of Yosemite-Sam-like epithets. Stomped in a half circle, still cursing at the top of my lungs and leapt again, bringing my full weight against the…
Both feet went sideways on an ice ridge, and there was pain, darkness and stars rolling through the sky.
I don’t think I actually knocked myself out, but there was blood on my finger from the throbbing area behind my right temple. That was gonna leave a mark. And my arm — damn, my elbow hurt like hell.
I rolled to my left side and checked for other damage. No, I hadn’t broken anything, But the fall, the stupid ignominy of it, sapped me of the last of my courage. God damn it. I didn’t want to die like this. I cowered in a ball on the ice, head on my knees, and whimpered.
I rocked from side to side, letting the tears flow freely. “You know where to find me when you’re ready,” she’d said. But I didn’t. Damn it — I didn’t know how to find anything.
How long would those words haunt her when they told her how my body was found?
It was the throbbing that woke me. Somehow I had cried myself out and, sapped of tears and frustration, drifted off into the hollow sleep of the dying. The adrenaline burst again into my heart: here on the ice, sleep was how death took your hand. I shook my head to drive it away, and doubled over again from the sudden pain.
The blood on my temple had dried, but my head ached and shook with vibration. I’d had a concussion once, when I was seven. Yes, with Bobby, teaching ourselves to rappel off the roof. The gutter wasn’t nearly as strong as we’d thought, and Bobby said I went backwards, one and a half turns, before I hit the wood pile. He caught most of the hell for it, what with being older and nominally wiser. That he never confessed how it had been my idea to start with was a debt I’d never stopped trying to repay.
But there were other debts I needed to repay, other promises to keep. I forced myself to my feet. What the hell — I might as well just keep walking, trying to walk in great big circles. At best, I’d stumble onto some recognizable landmark. At worst I’d keep myself warm with the effort. No — I remembered the black flag — at worst I’d disappear into a crevasse and become yet another abiding mystery for the conspiracy theorists: “Dr. Nicolai Walter — gone without a trace! What did he know?”
I made it two steps before the throbbing brought me to my knees again. Something was definitely wrong; I could feel it throughout my entire body now. If this wasn’t a concussion, I…
An LC-130H Hercules transport is powered by four Allison turboprops, each engine producing five thousand horsepower and spinning propellor blades over four meters in diameter. The throbbing briefly pitched to a howl, then the sky darkened as an iron angel passed over and I was rolled sideways by propwash.
The blast of air, the din and the blowing snow faded in seconds; when I regained my bearings, a wide blue ribbon of open sky gaped overhead. A kilometer upfield, the Herc added power and, having parted the sea of fog with a low pass, climbed away to return for its final approach. A line of quivering black flags marked the end of the ice runway.
I counted the paces back along the runway edge toward the fueling shack: 2153 steps to the first turnout, where a broad curving apron allowed vehicle access to the cargo berms. The Herc was still on deck as I approached, engines churning in idle against the cold as a pair of Cat loaders took turns pulling pallets from its lowered back ramp. Fog nipped nervously at the apron’s edge, still apprehensive of the big plane’s wake.
I knew they had coffee at the fueling shack, and a first aid kit. But Kelty was probably on duty, so there’d be unavoidable questions about that bloody lump on my head, then paperwork and reports. No, my head was fine, really. What I needed now, more than first aid, more than anything, was sleep.
I could already make out the broad lines of the cargo berms looming in the mist to my right. From the berms, a flag line led into the muck toward a bank of construction sheds, and beyond the sheds was the well-traveled footpath to Summer Camp. Yes, I could do this on my own.
I still stopped at every flag and turned, somehow unconvinced that the line behind me wouldn’t vanish once I had passed it. But here now were the construction tents, inert and empty, fronted by a plywood boardwalk. I was fully immersed in the fog now, and weighed the benefits of just remaining here until conditions improved. No, the dark warmth of J-7, of that comforter, beckoned. It was so close, and I was so tired.
I took the remaining steps slowly, with a concentration I had not needed since that day out on the ridge with Bobby. My eyes never strayed from the path, a palimpsest of footprints lain over each other in the broken snow. It would be 50 steps, 60 at the most. I counted them deliberately, unwilling to face the prospect of running to the end of my tally and finding myself lost again in the fog.
But a boxy olive drab shape loomed after only 46 steps. Smoker’s Lounge. And half a dozen beyond it, J-11. Then J-10, 9, 8, and finally, mercifully, my own canvas half-pipe of refuge: J-7. I pushed in through the vestibule, then the thermal door, without the customary pause to scuff snow off my boots.
The womb-like darkness of the corridor enveloped me, and I stood there with my hands perched on the rails waiting for my eyes to adjust. The air was warm and damp and filled with the gentle breathing of my nine slumbering tent mates. A snoring grunt from down the hall signalled that Bruce was secure in his bunk. Closer in, I could hear Shelly’s light, almost whistling exhalations. I was home.
I stumbled three partitions down, pulled open the plywood separator of my wedge and flung myself headlong onto the bed, burying my face in the soft, sweet comfort of Anna’s flannel. Oh, how I wanted to roll myself up in her embrace, how I never wanted to leave her again.
I could call her soon — the pulsating red face of my clock showed just shy of 6:30; had I really been out there three hours? In some ways it felt like minutes; in others, a lifetime.
Kicking my boots off stymied me until I remembered having tied them on. But I was too tired even to undo the laces, and rolled and rolled Anna’s comforter around me in that narrow bed. Yes, I would call her soon, but first I needed the asylum of this godforsaken little bed. I needed sleep.
I clutched the pillow to my cheek and lost myself in the memory her smile, half a world away. Three more weeks, and I would find my way home to her. Three more weeks. With great heaving sighs, I let the emotions drain from me, all of them, and let sweet relief take me over as I drifted away, until only one thought still clung to my wearied mind: I needed to pee again.