Both of my older stepsisters moved away from Pittsburgh, one to Tennessee for college and the other to Atlanta for a job, approximately 4.2 seconds after it became possible for them to do so. The first time they came home for Christmas, they spent the whole time huddled in the finished basement in knee socks and heavy sweaters with the heat turned up past 70.
At the time I was living in an apartment with H. and another good friend of ours and we were trying, college student-style, to keep the bills at an absolute minimum. The furnace broke and it wasn’t until one of us woke up and realized he could see his breath that we noticed we’d strayed past the usual frostiness into a potentially pipe-freezing temperature.
I thought my stepsisters were punks. Until I moved to the south.
A few weeks ago, under threat of ice storms, school was cancelled for a day. The whole thing amounted to nothing more than near-freezing temperatures and some rain, but all of southeast Texas was in an absolute panic. I was at school for the first meeting of an education class and the teacher promised, considering the weather, to let us out early. As the time for our promised release passed, I felt myself working into a frenzy. Doesn’t she know she’s putting our lives in danger? I found myself thinking, near hysteria. When the professor (a Ukrainian woman, who, I’m sure looked at us with the same scorn I’d reserved for my stepsisters) finally dismissed us, I spent the whole walk across campus grumbling about the freezing temperatures and the unreasonableness of the whole situation, imminent life-threatening ice storm and all. I leaned into the wind and felt very sorry for myself in my light coat, no gloves and no hat.
Who’s the punk now? You’ve come a long way, baby.
By the way, Lucinda Williams. Seriously. The woman makes “Minneapolis” sound like the sexiest word and most exotic location for heartbreak since Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel.”