I spent most of the later day schwitzing over the prospect of going out, as I had resolved to do, round about eleven to tuck a couple of hand-warmer packets into the insulated sock around my hose bib. You know the things, full of something vaguely like iron filings which starts to generate a heat-dumping chemical reaction as soon as oxygen hits it. You stick them in your shoe toes or pockets or little nooks in gloves made to hold them, not right up to your skin since they can peak at an uncomfortably high temperature. Long ago in the morning of the world, when I was a renter, I zip-tied a couple of them to water pipes in the basement of the townhouse after my pathologically frugal landlady took a low bid from a shyster furnace contractor. We had to threaten them with the county business licensing office and journalistic exposure (I wrote for the local paper at the time, which was handy) before she got a refund for an alleged repair that left the place barely skimming 55 degrees.
I remembered this when the single digit predictions started coming in and I reflected ruefully that my east wall hose bib is so old and corroded that it won’t quite shut off. I have this sock gizmo on the thing but I really do not trust it down to seven degrees. The wind was sharp earlier and I expected to feel like Commodore Perry before I got the heat packets into it but no, my hands didn’t even have a chance to get cold when I doffed my gloves to tie everything back up tight.
I looked up through air as clear and hard as the lens of a magnifying glass, stars I never usually see sifted over a deep firmament. Orion was right over the tomato garden.
Well, jeepers, how soft have I gotten? Back in Annandale on Hudson, when I was a precocious college freshman, we would linger necking in the dormitory archway in weather this cold. And back then we had only that awful bulky waffle underwear and, in my case, a full outfit made of flannel lined (by my own hands) with Milium, a metal-insulated textile that has gone the way of the clepsydra and the gasogene.
I stood in the garden for a while before going in. It’s only fifteen degrees. It wasn’t really cold, not in layers of Space Age fleece and microfiber.
I think I’ll go back out before I turn in. I don’t want to be afraid of nights like this when I’m eighty.