The checker at Fred Meyer was friendly, and judging by her accent, a native Oregonian like me. She spoke distinctly, and quite loud enough. But I could not assemble the sounds into speech. I stared at her. It's a familiar sensation, for me. My needle slips out of its groove, somehow: speech dissolves into a mere sequence of noises. I said, "I'm sorry?" and she repeated herself cheerfully.
Still just sound. "I'm sorry," I said, feeling old, fragile, and unnecessary, "I'm not following."
"Do you want these in double bags, or are singles fine?" she asked yet again. Still cheerful and patient. Part of the job, no doubt, is dealing with doddering, deaf, dementia-ridden customers.
"Oh, singles are fine," I said, "and you can leave the milk and the cat food out." The cat food was a boxful of cans. She duly lifted them into the little cart, and I added, "Let them run free!" You know, a little jeu d'esprit, to show that when I am tracking I am capable of playfulness. Not doddering at all.
Out into the parking lot, where the new snow was skipping on the pavement, twirling and eddying. Now I felt strong and vital -- I love the snow -- despite my inability to decode human speech. Sometimes the sounds just won't chain together, for me. It's nothing new. It's one of those human things, and sometimes I don't feel very human. More puma than human being: something that's used to the stillness of snow and the shadows under the heavy fir boughs. There are times, many times, when I don't feel all that invested in humanity. "The death of Jesus set me free: then what have I to do with thee?"
I watched the sky shaking out its white linens, the powder falling, and the wind made visible, its long white whips lashing and coiling on the street. But I was human enough to drive home, five miles per hour all the way, in a long line of worried cars pouring into the suburbs from downtown. We are not used to snow, here.
That was yesterday. Now, after all day at home, I am restless. "A caged tiger," Martha calls me, varying my cat-identity. I went for a walk in the snow at twilight: everything shadowy blue and white; and the snow cold enough to be light, thick enough to be good footing. So cold it didn't even get my feet wet. But now it's night, and I have not been out enough. I want something to catch: something to chew on and tear to bits.