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Ode to the Streetlight

Not all weather gauges have fancy meteorological names.
posted: 11/19/2008

I pulled the trigger. And I felt guilty as soon as I did it. I guess I never thought the shot would hit its mark.

At night, in that dark mountain town in northern Utah, a streetlight outside our window served as our meteorological gauge—a kind of weather vane. Flakes drifting through its pool of light indicated snowfall intensity and wind speed. I would try to sleep, rolling around, drifting in and out of that dream where I launch an air and never come down. Every hour or so, I would peek out from under my moldy sleeping bag, tweak the blinds, and peer outside at the light, eyes blurry. Was that a flake? No. Back in the bag.

The night I shot the streetlight, the eight residents of our two-bedroom condo were dozens deep in 3.2 beer and Jäger shots, sitting around listening to the same reggae mix for the ten-thousandth time. Our minimum-wage grinds—in rental shops, on race crew—felt like prison. The red H on the Weather Channel map hadn’t moved off of our town in weeks and I was sick of looking at the weatherman’s bald dome, glistening like boilerplate ice. It was two weeks into a brutal January high-pressure system and the slopes were a scratchy crust. We were on the verge of murdering one another. When I saw the streetlight outside the window, something snapped.

I just wanted to see snow. I blamed that damn streetlight for not giving me the validation I desperately needed. I blamed it for my squalor. I blamed it for the frayed nerves in our overcrowded, underpaid, overworked crack-shack condo. I threw in a chew and called for the pellet gun. It materialized in my hands and I staggered out onto the deck. I propped my hip against the swelling mound of beer boxes, swayed, spat, and pulled the trigger. The light went out. Done. There was nothing out there now but darkness, wrapping us tighter than ever in our little box.

Weeks passed, the light stayed out, and the skiing sucked. Then, one February night, I looked through my blinds. The light was back on, and a fat flake drifted beneath it. Then two, three, 10. The empty glare morphed into a swirling, streaking cone of white. I reset my alarm and tried to get back to sleep.


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