By Sophie Kamryn
I pride myself on being tolerant of cold weather, and I blame it on the fact that I used to get in trouble for furrowing my eyebrows. The habit was born out of a sensitivity to light, and also, it’s just how my face worked. My parents called them “angry eyebrows,” even though I was, in fact, not angry.
I’m seven years old. Every time my father tells me to “stop crying and show some respect,” my breath gets stuck at the apex of my throat. He hates crying, almost as much as he hates my feelings. Try as I might to keep my tears and my angry eyebrows at bay, they worm their way back onto the surface of my face. I steel myself for a swift slap on the backside, which is sure to turn black and blue. Soon after, I am being hoisted by my legs over the shoulder of my father and hauled outside into the winter Alaskan air.
Standing on the porch, crying and filling my lungs with frozen oxygen, I hear him say, “I’ll be back. Think about what you’ve done.” A turn of the heel, a jump from a slammed door, and a lock clicked. I am alone. And I don’t know what I’ve done.
My breath becomes a hazy cloud in front of me; I can’t get enough air. Back and forth, back and forth, I pace. Back and forth. My socked feet are going numb from the chill, my tiny body in a nightgown growing goosebumps to try and stay warm. Damp tears turn raw as they slip down my face and onto the hardened ground. Illuminated by the moon, I am invisible; my own cries slice through the silence until I, too, am silent once again.
Eventually, my father turns the knob, pops his head out the door, and shouts, “You cold enough yet?” My body can’t stop itself from shivering. My job now is to be seen but not heard and turn the 43 muscles in my face into the blank slate my father desires it to be. To swallow down feeling and widen the amount of time between this coldness and the next. It never lasts long, but it’s okay in the summer. At least then I have the birds and the midnight sun to keep me company. But still, I shake, and still, I am silent.
Fifteen years later, and I’m sinking deep into the fabric folds of my therapist’s grey-toned couch. The air is warmer but feels cold, all the same. This day, I find my voice. My body shaking just as it did on those nights, I realize that shivering is also the body’s way of letting go what it can’t contain any longer. Maybe it’s time for me to be angry. To let all of that coldness out.
Sophie Kamryn is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University. When she is not engaging in graduate school activities, you can find her volunteering at the nearest animal rescue center. Her work has been published in Haunted Waters Press.