THIS IS THE SEASON, the season of heavy boots and crackling fires, of warm blankets and dark nights. It’s a relief at times to feel winter’s cold hands on your face. As hard as it is on the body, as hard as it is on the mind, and hard on the soul, there is a stunning beauty in the diamond elegant hardness of winter, in those frosted-out branches reaching to the moon in full, mirroring back light like phantom fingers. Outside, the local men march and return, ascending crooked staircases, great armfuls of birch and alder to burn, held tight in their muscles. That hard-headed determination, that clenched desire to survive and keep warm. Inside their wives and girlfriends are making them soup or tea. Sometimes their girlfriends are other men’s wives. On some cold nights, it’s all too much. On some nights, it feels good to shiver, to let the cold have its way with you. Let it all in. Let it in through the doors, and windows, through the floor. Then it’s morning and I wake up thinking about Brynhild, which is some Old Norse goddess name I have given to one woman who appears from time to time. I think of the comfort of her breast, and how weak I am for it, and how she is unrepentant for betraying her husband. “It’s complicated,” she says. I don’t like being weak, or vulnerable, or in need of comfort, but when the opportunity arises, that’s when I understand how famished I am. My life is full of hard things. Heaviness, wintryness, ice floe hardness. There is no natural softness in me, so I seek out the soft. I dream of the warmth and of the soft as I head out to the wood barn and the flakes are fluttering down in the moonlight at midnight. I crawl up and sleep in the room beside the hot flames in the furnace and awake beneath the blanket at the very first signs of light. Outside, there are already people on their way somewhere, stepping over mounds of snow to head to the cafe or to the apothecary, bundled in hats, gloves, shawls, boots, and just a little room for their wild eyes. Sometimes I ask myself, do I love Brynhild? The answer I think is no. I don’t love anymore. Sometimes I try, but it never goes anywhere. You get that big feeling and all you are left with is some words, or an idea, or the memory of being content for a while. Sometimes the women I think I love have partners, which means they are locked up tight like princesses in some castle, and there’s no getting at them anyhow, even as they blow kisses at you from the tower. Sometimes they don’t, but they are always looking for something better. Sometimes they pass you on the street with another man. Most times they don’t look back. They might wave to you. That’s when I think that love is just some word someone made up once upon a time. Like a fever dream, I wake up restless again and aching for comfort. I think again of Brynhild. Sometimes you don’t fully understand how hungry you can be for a woman until she’s lying there nude beside you. Sometimes the experience is so confusing, so euphoric, and so grotesque, that I don’t know what to think. I keep coming back for more. I have to go back because I want more. Anything to keep warm on cold nights. This is it for me then, the restlessness, the shuffling, the drifter’s life. Like some bluesman hobo of the American South, moving from town to town. You listen to the blues and fall asleep to them at night. You get up, put on your snow boots and head out. Maybe some princess in a tower might blow you a kiss. Or maybe Brynhild will at last take pity on your soul. Maybe today will be different.

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