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Kaleidoscope

"If months were people, February would be evil."

What an odd thing to say out loud. I place this thought inside the head of a passerby. I pull at the scarf around my neck with my fingers, uncomfortably stretching the white fabric until the moist heat underneath escapes. A stream of air, a sort of woodsy smoke, unleashes itself from my mouth, blurring the world with that same moist heat. While I rub my fingers together, I remind myself that it's not cold. We are in the midst of a weird February—where it's thirty degrees as opposed to about ten or twenty below zero. Zero itself is a barrier, a mystifying place—zero is when the bell tolls, zero is the place where winter materializes.

I have no reason to label February as evil. The season has progressed to a sensation of spring, an in-between stage, much like its brother autumn. There is a distinct difference between them—either getting warmer or getting colder—that you can usually tell from breathing.

I take in a deep breath of air. Gasoline and food are two noticeable smells during winter. Commonly juxtaposed to this are layers of snow that look more like crumbled Oreos, and under those layers a dark pallet of mottled greens and browns and reds. Instead of these, I am surrounded by rusty orange colors and a clean blue sky. And the trees, instead of being in the process of dying, seem to have been dead for awhile. The flavors with it are clean and distinct, blended together by a subtle heat in the air. This is exactly the scent of spring, a word I do not associate with the month of February. Suddenly feeling hot, I undo my scarf completely, observing the silver ring on my finger. It glimmers in a mystifying way, complex like the pattern in a kaleidoscope.

"I picked a grayer green, because it reminded me of your eyes," I picture Frankie saying. Often when I walk I find myself imagining she's there too. Her face tensed then, in my imagination, an expression much more obvious and profound than the one she'd make in real life. She was never the one to say, "Why are you wearing it on that finger?" But I answer the unspoken question anyway.

"I don't know."

Imaginary Frankie pulls out a cigarette. It's easier to breathe around her when the smoke is fake. She points at my ring, "I wonder if a kaleidoscope is as pretty."

I wonder why she'd contrast it to that. Probably because I'm thinking about it.

I twist the jewel with a finger. In front of a fractured bench damp with melting snow, I stop and observe the ring as one looks upon another's child. The gem sits limply on its pedestal, limp like all of the other flowers are in February. I regard it sadly, the gray in the green deepening and pulling wider over the green until all greens take on a similar gray hue. Finally, I think I realize what it means.

"No," I answer, "I don't think anything is as beautiful."