It's 11:00 or so at night: I surface from the noisy downstairs space of House of TARG, where I've been for a friend's birthday party, to discover that the damp air I noticed on the way there from the office has done the inevitable and turned into a cold overnight snow, one of those ones with the tiny flakes turning all the streets white. There's a thin layer of churned up snow on the streets, with thin black tire tracks worn through it, in spots. The air is filled with whirling miniscule ice flakes. And I realize I'm happy about that.
I get on the bike and start down the street, riding in the streak of bare pavement left by the cars or, sometimes, in the slightly thinner snow that's accumulated. The cold air makes me blink a lot and the snowflakes get in my eyes, so I have to focus on the road ahead of me: patches of thicker snow where I'll have to watch my balance, searching for the thinnest covering. My fingers are burning cold for the first several minutes, and at red lights I stop and pull my hands into fists inside my gloves to try and warm them. I resist breathing on them, which will only make my gloves damper, and colder.
And sure enough, by the time I'm climbing past the Billings Bridge Mall, the familiar fiery rush moves out through my fingers, and soon they're not just comfortable, they're warm, as if I was holding them to a fire.
I can watch my breath steam out in big clouds. Sometimes it blows back into my face and the edges of my glasses steam up. At the intersection of Bank and Heron - an intersection I usually hate - I ride across, then turn to head east on Heron, and plant my tires firmly in the track left by the cars. Someone pulls up behind me in a sedan, waiting for the light. I stay where I am, and though my back tire slips a couple of inches before catching when I start off, I climb the hill out of the intersection without ever once cringing out of the way of passing cars. I stick to the clearest pavement.
My home street is as snowy as the rest. I angle the left turn into my driveway, and stop for a moment after my lights are turned off and I've hefted the bike up with one hand, to look up at the swirling snow and the greyish-yellow sky with the city lights reflecting off it.
I kind of don't want to go inside yet.