Alphabet, A History: W (Winter)


The following piece of creative nonfiction is part of a series I started on my personal blog a few years ago called “Alphabet: A History,” which is a collection of short, autobiographical vignettes, focusing mainly on relationships (familial, romantic, platonic, and self).

It’s July, 2004 — hot and sticky. We’re sitting in his backyard drinking Gin & Tonics and taking turns reading the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

“You have any beer?” I ask.

“No,” he replies, reaching for his wallet, “but I’ll buy if you fly.”

I stand up and take his money, my arms are full of freckles, and I’m wearing those Nine West flip flops with the little black bows and a shirt he later says makes me look washed out. My hair’s pulled back in a ponytail, and I’m wearing the cinnabar earrings I love. It’s before I lose one getting out of a car. It’s before the last time I ever see him.

In August we go to France together and eat plums right off the trees. In October he shows me New York City for the first time and I lie on the grass in Central Park and pick a window in one of the skyscrapers and imagine it’s my bedroom. In November he invites me to his family’s house for Thanksgiving but I stay in Chicago and host my sister instead. In December he goes to Morocco without me.

In January we try to break up. I tell him I’m done and then I see how long it will take before he calls or texts me again, every minute a point toward his ultimate victory. It takes two days. “This is dumb,” he says when I answer the phone, and I smile to myself. “We don’t need to break up.”

“Ok,” I say, relieved. I know we need to break up, but this right now, it feels like a victory and it’s January and I’m cold and I’ll take one where I can get it.

In February he takes me to a French restaurant and does all the ordering. We drink cappuccinos with our dessert. We hardly talk. I take a picture of him across the table not looking at me because I want to remember.

In March he dumps me and I cry and say it isn’t fair.

“But, you’re what I’ve been looking for!” I say, and even as the words tumble out I know it isn’t true. But what if I never find what I’m looking for? And what if this is the best I can do? And what if I’m always alone?

It’s February, 2013. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and notice my freckles have faded. I try to remember if they fade like this every winter. I try to remember eight years ago. I try to remember that back yard and those restaurants and the plum trees in the South of France. I can see myself on the grass in Central Park, but it’s not him I’m with, and I remember February four years ago when I got engaged and I remember July and our wedding and I remember snowy walks with my baby through the park. And I remember that every winter precedes a summer, year after year after year.

It’s February, 2013. My freckles have faded, my color is pale, and I’m waiting for July and sun and heat.


  1. Yegads Wendy, get thee to a publisher. These are exquisite.

  2. lets_be_honest says:

    I can’t get past the part about being hot, sticky and freckly. How I yearn for that!

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      “But, you’re what I’ve been looking for!” I say, and even as the words tumble out I know it isn’t true. But what if I never find what I’m looking for? And what if this is the best I can do? And what if I’m always alone?

      Wow. All of this, amazing.

      1. I’ve definitely felt this way in the past.

      2. applescruffs says:

        Yes…in the past…TOTALLY feel…I mean FELT like this.

      3. I definitely felt like this in November with my ex. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever thought that way.

  3. “And I remember that every winter precedes a summer, year after year after year.”

    I needed this. Thank you. Beautiful.

  4. Moneypenny says:

    This gave me goosebumps! (and not because it’s winter!) 🙂
    Love it!

  5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    Beautiful, Wendy. It could have been called “W (winter), Addie Pray” or anyone else’s name I’m sure, you touch so many of us. Thank you for everything! And thank you for your readers. I love you guys. My drama and negativity and self-consumption is bringing me and everyone around me down! Even this comment of mine is more of the same. I need to refocus. I love you all!

    1. applescruffs says:

      Love you too, Addie!

  6. I read the entire alphabet series back before you even started this site… I love how you’ve been revisiting them and adding to them.

    Sometimes my “old” life seems so far away from where I am now, and reading these helps me remember that the old life is always in us… It’s allowed us to get to where we are, and it’s shaped who we’ve become.

    So, thanks for that.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      The alphabet series is what got me hooked!

      1. I think Cafe Bong got me hooked 🙂

  7. Aw, Wendy. This story is so touching and beautifully written. You sure have a way with words. It is like being there and having those experiences along with you.

  8. Avatar photo Cleopatra_30 says:

    Aww man i miss my freckles too! They get so dark in the summer, on my face, arms and knees:P I cannot wait till summer! At least the days are getting longer:D

  9. kerrycontrary says:

    I love the Alphabet series. Wendy, I really hope you can publish a book (or maybe a compilation of essays) sometime in the near future on these. They really are your best writing.

  10. This is a good one. And I particularly love the bit about telling someone they are right for you even as you know its not true. Because you WANT it to be true.

    I’m also dealing with winter fever and today’s warmer temps and sunshine made me realize how very dark and dreary I’ve been feeling. Just this little glimmer of warm sunshine felt surreal and impossible. I’m so ready for Spring.

  11. applescruffs says:

    I went to graduate school in Portland, and visiting comes with all this nostalgia now. I can see my 22 year old self walking through the rose garden, my 23 year old self moving out of the burbs and into the city for the first time, my 24 year old self being swept away by the sexy older man, my 25 year old self glaring at the GODDAMN RAIN. My point is, I relate to this sense that my past self is right there, just out of reach.

  12. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    Wendy you have a gift.

  13. Beautiful. I feel like my winter’s never going to end.

  14. I loved reading these on City Wendy and I love reading them now. Beautiful.

  15. Dear Wendy,

    Just happened to come across this and it’s wonderful. I look forward to working my way through the rest of your alphabet.

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