I flew across the continent, north and east, to see my dear friend and also go learn some new things — in that order, although ostensibly perhaps the reverse. My flight came in very late, flying against the sun, so earlier in my body than in the city where I landed, and when I finally found the bus I needed to take me to my hotel it was quite night, and I was tired and hungry and elated with the newness of it all and knowing I would see my friend the next day. So on the bus, rather than sitting quietly once a seat came open and reading or daydreaming, I stood and listened to conversation, two men, one older, exuberant, telling everyone who would listen his story, the other younger, Francophile by his accent, rather bemused to be on the receiving end of this attention but I think also pleased. The younger had come from a vacation somewhere south, an island, and was going back to his small town three hours away from where we had all arrived, to his work driving a taxi. The older was an electrician with a travelling show, just come from Moscow, and he told stories of the places he’d been — no, not even the places, the weather. Stories of the weather he had seen, the cold he had just left behind in Moscow, the heat of Arizona where the walk-in freezer where the food was kept became a favourite place for him to take naps, the wind in a third place (Texas?) that made his work difficult, his love of the ocean near his home where he would sail and his friends would tease him for wearing too little or too much clothing depending on where he had most recently been for his work.
I stood, listening, watching their faces, the younger man engaging, answering questions, the older telling his stories, enjoying the audience, and I made the little noises now and again, that I was listening, and once or twice asked a question, and then suddenly he turned and asked me where I lived, and I told him — not too far from his ocean home. He said something about the weather here, and I admitted that I missed true autumn, true winter, and that in my travel I was hoping to have a little taste of cold before going back home to the dry sun. And suddenly serious, he said to me, that it would be a true winter back at home, as true as it might be, cold enough that there is snow on the hills once or twice, and that he was not certain how he knew it, but he did know, he felt it, it would be a cold winter. Then laughing again, he said, but not as cold as Moscow! And he picked his thread back up and began the stories once more.
Now, of course, he might be right, and he might not be right, and either way the winter will be what it is, unchanged by his guesses or knowledge. But now that I have that to carry with me, if I choose, I may look forward with some amusement to see if he guessed correctly — and regardless of what comes it is sealed into my memory now, standing on that bus going through the dark strange city, from the brilliance of the airport to the spaces between and then the new lights of downtown, strange buildings and signs, listening to him predict my winter.