Chilblain

Chilblain: (n) a painful, itching swelling on the skin, typically on a hand or foot, caused by poor circulation in the skin when exposed to cold.

A series of the number 24:

I was 24 years old.

It was 24 miles.

It was 24 degrees.

And I had been up for 24 hours.

I was desperately trying to start a music group that possessed enough solvency that the aggravated adults around me would stop bitching about my lack of a job.

I was failing.

Every time I got twelve dollars at a coffeehouse gig, I had fifteen dollars of bills.

I also had begun a family–mainly because my wife and I had not yet figured out the intricacies of birth control. Delaying this education led to two very quick
pregnancies.

I had not been home for five days, and even though there was a blizzard going on, I decided to take my old beat-up 1958 Chevy, with bald tires, and drive the 24 miles from Westerville, Ohio, to Centerburg, my home.

As I drove north, the weather got worse and I couldn’t see the road, which had disappeared under a blanket of white-carpeting ice.

Suddenly I felt a pain in my chest, then in my head, an itching in my leg (could have been a chilblain, right?) and the deep abiding notion that I was in trouble. Yes, I was only 24 years old, but thought I was having a heart attack, a stroke and a physical collapse, all at the same moment.

There was no place to stop, no houses to drive up to, seeking help–just more road and more and more snow bullets bouncing off my windshield.

I was scared.

I didn’t want to die.

I felt I was conjuring many of the symptoms due to my fatigue, loneliness and apprehension. Still, that didn’t make them go away.

As if on cue, the heater in my car, which had been offering some comfort, stopped working. Now all it was doing was blowing cold air on my frigid body.

Was I going to succumb on the 3-C Highway somewhere between Westerville and Centerburg, to be discovered tomorrow by a snow plow driver?

At that point, I did something I have done thousands of time since. I talked to myself.

“Buck up. If you’re gonna die, make it overtake you. Don’t give into it. Keep your eyes on the road. Be grateful that nobody else is traveling, so you can swerve around a little bit. And get yourself home.”

When I finished my little speech–my soliloquy, if you will–I immediately felt better.

I had calmed the storm in my own soul.

I had rested my own anxieties by admitting I was scared shitless.

A half hour later I pulled up in front of our old apartment, cautiously inched my way up the stairs, took off my clothes and climbed into bed with my wife, who had not seem me for some time.

I was so grateful.

Even my chilblain was gone.

I was humbled.

I never want to forget that sensation.

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