October 10, 1996

Many years later, he remembered his first experience with ice. It was one of those recollections that comes suddenly out of the blue with out warning, paying no heed to that which is occurring presently, and as such, does not come at an opportune time. He was a tall, rather business-like, thirty year-old man, who should have more important things on his mind than what his psychiatrist would call a repressed memory from his childhood. Not knowing what his reaction to this recollection would be, he tried to shut himself off from the world around him, the other commuters on the train traveling to work, and concentrate only on the time when he was in third grade.

He couldn't remember anything from third grade at all. He never had been able to. Although he could remember clearly events from kindergarten, first and second grade, and even more vividly the occurrences from then on, he had completely blanked out third grade, for reasons which neither he, nor any others, could comprehend. The time when he was eight had not been bad, from what he had been told. If anything, he should have blanked out the time when he was in sixth grade and his father and youngest sister had been killed in a car crash. But try as he had for years after the accident, he could not forget this tragedy or remember third grade.

So it was wholly remarkable that he remembered his first experience with ice, an insignificant moment, because it took place during the abominable third grade year, the one that had been forever erased from his memory leaving no traces, not even the face of his teacher, behind. The image came back to him, first in little bits and pieces, and then vividly.

It was a warm summer-like day, although it was mid-October, so warm that he could feel the rays of the sun penetrating his small body and that sweat was rolling down his back. He was playing soccer in their small backyard with his brother, who was one year his senior, and his brother's two best friends Jeff and Mark, boys with whom he had been close in his youth, but had soon grown out of touch. They were arguing over the legitimacy of a point when from inside the house, his mother called out in her tinkly voice, "Lemonade, boys." The argument was quickly forgotten as he and the others realized how hot and thirsty they were. Sitting on two benches at a picnic table that his father had constructed several years earlier, the boys gulped down their glasses of the sweet yet sour drink as a cool breeze whistled though the elm trees above their heads. Soon, after an appreciable number of cookies had been consumed, the boys dispersed to return to their homes, leaving behind only a pile of cookie crumbs and half melted ice in the bottom of their glasses. He watched with fascination as the ice quickly melted until his brother inquired as to what on earth he was doing, at which point he reluctantly finished the last sip of his lemonade and went inside.

This was by no means the first time he had seen ice, but it was the first time when he had ever really considered its existence and meaning, without just taking it for granted. Ice had become not only a coolant, but a religious experience of recognizing its awesome power and beauty, which would quickly disappear.

He worked on some homework, a project that consisted of cutting out pictures from a National Geographic magazine for a few hours until he realized that he was so hungry that Abraham Lincoln's face on Mount Rushmore had been replaced with that of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel. Then, he put on a clean shirt and, at the insistence of his mother, put on a new pair of socks.

For dinner that night, the family, with the exception of his older sister Suzanne, went out to his favorite restaurant, that of the previously mentioned Rushmore resident. When they arrived, late in the afternoon, the fast food place was close to deserted. He and his two younger sisters ran ahead to pick out a table and twist on those swivel chairs. As they waited for their parents to order the food, they watched the people at the next table, three students from the nearby university, who had a large blue book of the complete works of Shakespeare, which they seemed to be enthusiastically discussing. Overhearing the word "handkerchief," he remembered his typical privilege; he got six napkins, straws, knives, sporks, and ketchup packets, slowly counting them out. Things started to get fuzzy in his mind here, and he couldn't remember what he ate, only that afterwards, he and his brother broke the prongs off their sporks one by one, saving the middle one for last in accordance with their typical juvenile humor, which went unappreciated by their parents. For the second time that day, he was sitting, staring fixedly at the contents of his cup, filled with ever-changing clear crystals.

Suddenly, just as the ice ceases to be majestic and then is only an unstructured pile of water, the train came to a stop with a jerk, jolting his thoughts back to the present, where the only ice was that on the sides of the railroad tracks. He saw two children having a snowball fight and a sled lodged into a nearby tree. Why did they have to go to the supermarket on that icy evening?

The train started again. He had missed his stop. He waited in silence for three more stops, watching the people surrounding him, swarms of faces. Then he calmly stepped off the train and walked around the block and into a building, cursing under his breath at the snow beneath his feet. He hesitated only slightly outside of the door, reading the sign "Dr. Roberts," before entering. They had a lot to talk about.