Fading Into Winter

While sitting in a cafe at lunch yesterday, a Mazzy Star song came on the radio – “Fade Into You” – and brought me instantly back to January of 1995. At the time, I was living in a dorm room in the Usen Castle of Brandeis University (yes, a real castle, with turrets and drafts and birds in the eaves) so my forays into Boston were usually saved for weekends. I made the most of them by staying in the city until the last commuter train ran a little after midnight.

I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take a breath that’s true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth

I was in the midst of coming out to myself and to my friends, and it was a strange time – both lonely and raw and rife with possibility, hopes, and disappointment. The gentle tug of an unfurling future propelled me to seek out and explore the city streets, traversing the Back Bay area, or hopping on the T and getting out at any stop that sounded interesting. (On one subway map someone had written “Where the fags live” by one of the stops. I’m sure I got off there (not sexually), but any grand expectations for love or even lust were repeatedly dashed by my ignorance of cruising, or a haunted trepidation to look back at those gentlemen who stared at me just a little too long.) Though my heart yearned for it, my head was filled with stubborn pride and a barrier of aloofness that kept me locked in my solitude.

You live your life
You go in shadows
You’ll come apart and you’ll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colors your eyes with what’s not there.

On that night in January, there was a cutting wind, and a cruel dip in temperatures. Our January thaw had dissipated and all was frozen again. I bundled up with a scarf wound tightly up to my eyes and around my ears, the hood of my brother’s fleece-lined coat covering my head. In my bulky, top-heavy state, absolutely void of any sense of fashion, I felt more animal-like, and distinctly less human, and I eyed the few sleeping (dead?) homeless people who were camped outside with unenviable dread.

Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you
I think it’s strange you never knew

It was a vicious night, completely unforgiving in all its brutal aspects. Stripped bare of warmth, and even a single friend that evening, I felt emotionally barren as well, bereft of the simplest companionship, and it made the cold that much more unbearable. Loneliness is difficult in the most welcoming of climes; when coupled with an unrelenting winter night in the city, it’s debilitating. I’m not saying I felt lonely, but I was keenly aware of my solitude (which is the closest I ever came to real loneliness).

A stranger’s light comes on slowly
A stranger’s heart without a home
You put your hands into your head
And then its smiles cover your heart.

Though it’s been fifteen years since that night, I still remember it clearly. There was no one around to offer comfort or warmth, so I did my best to do it myself. Instead of the embrace of a cozy bed and the arms of a partner, I made do with an extra scarf and a tall Styrofoam cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. Rather than a home and hearth warmed by a fireplace, I burrowed into wool socks and gloves, ducking into paper stores and galleries to escape the pursuing winter.

Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you…

I looked into crowded restaurants, peering in at people and watching how they interacted with each other. I’d listen to snippets of their conversations on the subway and commuter rail, marveling at the easy way some people had with each other, with anyone really, and wondering why I didn’t allow such simple interactions with potential friends and school-mates.

I think it’s strange you never knew,
I think it’s strange you never knew…

Looking back on that night, and those winter days, I am at a loss for the isolation I imposed upon myself. I am also grateful. It’s better to know you can be alone, and be all right with it, before you find a partner, or a lasting friend.

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