Scarves. Socks. Toboggansyes, multiple toboggans. As I pull up my longjohns, I stumble, tripping over the sandals that I was wearing at the beach only six weeks ago. In all these layers, I feel clumsy, like an overstuffed teddy bear. But I’ll need these things if I’m going to make it through tonight. The meteorologists are saying it will fall far below freezing, and that snow is imminent. It’s a long walk downtown. This is the South, the South when it’s cold.
I leave my home, passing a mother with her child on the sidewalk. They seem short on bread and milk, with nothing on their person whatsoever. “Should I help?” I think. But I push on, coldly; it’s too late for them now. I pass my car in the parking lot of my apartment complex, its comfortable seats and power steering beckoning. But driving seems too risky, a Dixieland invitation to careen into a utility pole. I’ll do my best to remain upright.
As I slowly make my way toward downtown Raleigh, I realize I’m now at least 400 yards from biscuits or any countrified ham, a frozen food desert that my mother might have referred to as the “Death Zone.” But there is no turning back.
As my lips begin to chap, the thought that I might never make it back enters my mind. Perhaps my family will think I was committing suicide, venturing out into freezing temperatures like this. Should I have left a note? Breadcrumbs? Something that says “Jordan Rogers existed and did not want it to end this way” if I don’t make it back?
My friends up north warned me that when the temperature hits -40 below, spit will freeze before it hits the ground, animals will do crazy things, your face will crack when you talk. My phone says it’s only 30 degrees, but it might as well be -40. I’m worried that I’m losing my very sense of self.
I finally enter the grocery store, and I sense that there was a struggle here: Half-opened packages of bagels are strewn across the floor. The checkout attendants look tired and scared, as thought they’ve seen things they want to forget. I do not disturb them. Surely, there will be firewood somewhere else.
A second grocer tells me he’s out of firewood too, and I immediately suspect he’s lyinga selfish hoarder, most likely. He tells me to go home and just turn on my heat, that I don’t need firewood, that my first floor apartment probably doesn’t even have a fireplace. Proof!
“Heat?” I respond.
“It’s like air-conditioning, but the opposite. You use it in the winter,” he tells me sardonically.
Again, I suspect he’s lying. But what can I do? It’s too cold not to believe him.
I trudge back home, turn up the heat, and wait impatiently for spring. I am alive, and this is the South, the South when it’s cold.