Lake Erie was going to have a tantrum and shit all over our weekend plans. We knew this because the news stations had created a special logo with a cartoon snowflake creeping over the shoulder of the year, in safety orange numerals. The logo crept over the corner of the news anchor whose hair could withstand all the tantrums. I had given myself three Sheree Melt breakfasts at Amy’s Diner to tell Josie that I something-something. I didn’t have the whole moment figured out. I knew it started with pronouns, though. I looked in the mirror and pressed my chest flat with my hands and said You’re a handsome fella. I skated as far as telling Josie that my last boy was really a former debutante. Then the rink of my mouth closed and went to work smoothing out the skate marks along its surface. I practiced being spontaneous in the mirror. I buttoned and unbuttoned my vintage factory oxford to look more or less ironic or more or less vain or more and less at the same time. All for that moment when the diner would be loud enough and we’d be holding Bunn coffees and Elliott Smith would be on the radio.
Mom and Pop stores were selling out of the snow shovels with the fluted basins and gallon jugs of water. Everyone’s front porch was garrisoned with a bag or two of industrial grade rock salt. Buffalo had forgotten that Lake Effect weather was as routine as watching the lotto balls pop up and hearing the veneer of thrill ribbon from the newscaster’s voice. As though anyone we knew ever won real money or had not, many times, had to shovel their driveways and use words like blizzard and state of emergency when it was just snow. Lots of white on white on something something. When the logo popped up on the broadcast, we were Buffalo so acutely that we salvoed into panic mode as though we were not Buffalo, a city constructed entirely of hellscape weather, which is peak Buffalo.
How it went every time at Amy’s Diner was that Josie would eat her hangnails for a starter course while we waited outside for a table to open. Lake Effect wind abraded our faces into shredded pink patches the shape of scorn you can flex hard about. Not wounding enough to prevent us from standing for an hour and breathing in the heat of deep-fried silverware.
How it went was that we would both watch our talk about the travail of our past boys spin over the surface of the pronouns as though, under the hard shell, it was not a body of something fluid enough to recognize the falseness. A he would stutter from our freezing teeth. It would come off like a cartoon logo trying to convince you that blizzards drop nothing but straight orange numerals from the sky.
How it went was that we would huddle in that line of hungry queers, the main bread and butter of the Amy’s Diner world, and I would pull my orange knit cap over my whole face in one diffident snag. Then I would say the something something small enough so that the audibles could not weave through the fiber. Josie would say Gracie, stop being a freak. Then she would tug the cap up like a plastic blind that has forgotten it’s automatic only because it’s been untouched for so long. The hard jerk, then the immediate upward motion, the inescapable flood of light. Then the outside world would bleat through on a sudden, terrifying strobe of white. It would be another morning full of unopened gallon jugs. Of course, we were fine/would always withstand the weather. Josie and I would still be waiting to get inside the diner and warm every impulse into submission. I told myself, once inside, the surface of the pronoun game would melt enough for me to break through. I convinced myself it was as ordinary as any other state of emergency.
But after the knit cap snap, how it goes is that I say let’s go, I can’t stand the wait, the food’s not even that good, I’m dying, my stomach is going to eat itself. Josie’s hand casts, fluid-like, down the embankment of my cheek. Josie can always divine, through a single sluice of touch, precisely how hungry I am. This shits all over my plans. I salt down everything, immediately, every time, to cause the ice to break down, or build up, really fast. To make the something something catalyze into something else.
You love this place. Josie says. Overhead the sky has pleated flat all the pronouns, the clouds no longer their own clique of named clusters but instead, a unified mass. Which is really cool and also undeniably problematic, especially on an empty stomach.
Be honest, Josie says, you’d wait days for this shit.
I would, I say, pulling the knit cap back over the something something.
I would wait forever.