'The body of a homeless man was found huddled next to a fence in Denver, where the temperature hit 11 below Wednesday, and authorities were trying to determine if he froze to death. He apparently had shed his jacket in a phenomenon called "paradoxical undressing," where victims of hypothermia become disoriented and hallucinate, deputy coroner Amy Martin said.'
Roy and Anna were sitting around a table, hands cupping warm cups of coffee, when Roy pointed to this news item and said, Hey. There's a metaphor in this.
Roy spent a lot of time by himself and looked for deeper meanings anywhere, like in the pattern of field mice tracks in the snow, leading to and from his basement.
Anna was his wife until last year, when she moved out. She got tired of watching him try to decipher runes in the snow. Now they just had coffee together.
Paradoxical undressing, Roy read aloud, then repeated a few times.
Anna said, Roy. The man died.
Paradox. Pa-ra-dox. That's like, it's so cold that I'm burning up, Roy said. That's deep.
It's chemical, Anna said pragmatically. With Roy she had developed a reflex of never letting him explain a deeper meaning to her. The last straw was the day she packed her bags, and he thought it significant that the luggage tags on the suitcase were blank.
It's like Icarus, Roy said, rereading the news item. He was really searching now, nose deep in the earth, tracking those analogies.
No it's not, Anna said. It's terrible and sad.
If he really thought it was hot, maybe he thought he was in Jamaica or something.
This is not your little springboard, Anna said. Just leave him alone.
So they did, Roy said. He tapped on the table with the side of his thumb, staring at it. He said, I think a few years ago, when I had frostbite? It felt like my fingertips were on fire. So this must have been like that, only times a thousand. Maybe that's what happened.
You are fourteen, Anna said. I am not even sure that frostbite thing ever happened.
Maybe he felt nothing, Roy said. Maybe he felt immortal. The meaningful, I mean the cosmic, side of the paradox then, would be: cold is mortal, hot is immortal.
Cold will always win, Anna said.