Southwest gusts rip through the woods and in the crack of my barely-open window. Sharp, crisp February air before a storm. The clean, frozen smell of nights when snow crunches underfoot and the sky is obsidian black, thick with stars.
It snaps me back to the old condemned pier, long since rebuilt. Standing against you in the dark on unevenly frozen snow. The lake wind whips at us, howling through the pines. I can feel your rag-wool gloves laced around my hand, still taste classic Chapstick.
There are memories of us curled up under blankets with incense and Jimi Hendrix, but it's the sub-freezing, spontaneous late-night strolls that stay with me. Dark beaches of frozen sand and snow. Unlit streets icy and deserted, snowbanks piled high either side. Feigning lack of cold, getting snow in our socks, walking on the ice with an unconscious but deliberate gait that everyone who grew up here has.
We never took a flashlight. Neither of us wore a parka. We were kids and thought we were tough, daring each other to blink. It felt real and true in a way that is only possible for teenagers. Everything as clear as the night sky.
You finally admitted to being cold. My footing slipped a little on the ice as we walked back to your car. We couldn't decide where to go next.
We lost touch long ago. I'm sure I don't know you now. But every winter the wind knocks me back to who we were all those years ago.