The snow crunches beneath my feet, the crisp air burns my lungs with every inhale. I flip the collar of my mom’s leather jacket up against the wind and continue picking my way across the sparkling snow. Every sound makes me flinch, waiting for the danger it hides. This isn’t my season. A million beats of my heart hammer blood past my ears, but no arrows fly toward me. No Waniyetu materialize from the dark winter’s night to kidnap or kill me.
At the first sign of snow this afternoon at the Denver Botanical Gardens, I knew I’d be sneaking away from my village well after midnight. Tracing the path my family’s rental car had taken one fateful night more than forty years ago. The night I lost them all. The night I gained immortality for the pattern of freckles along my wrist.
The traffic along Colorado Boulevard is heavier than it was back then, even at nearly three in the morning. It’s far too cold tonight for foot traffic, but I stay invisible to human eyes all the same. Bright colored lights adorn the cookie-cutter houses. They shine through the layer of newly fallen snow like beacons of hope.
The year I was twelve, when mom’s leather coat trailed on the ground when I tried it on, we flew to Colorado for a skiing holiday. It had been the most exciting week of my life with bright red cheeks and huge cups of hot cocoa. The swirl of heat off the marshmallow-dotted liquid rose into the mountain air. My little sister, Lucy, and I had snowball fights and learned to ice skate. We skied on tiny pieces of wood strapped to our feet. And we were more alive in the thin air than we’d ever been before.