New York City, February 13, 2014

[No stars] Snow rippled through the air outside the shades like bedsheets being shaken. Clots of slush stuck to the windows. The preschool had robo-called to say that of course it was closed; incredibly or conventionally, the public school was open. The schoolyard, three blocks north, faded into the whiteout. To the south, a stubby little plow cleared a narrow path along the side of the high school, its lights battling the swirling storm. The visibility improved with a little waiting, but it was a deceptive improvement. Instead of big flakes, there were sharp flecks of ice blowing down Amsterdam. “Lovely day,” a construction worker said, huddled under the scaffolding, as a coworker trudged up with a hot beverage in his grip. “He means the opposite of what he said,” the first grader said. He staggered and stumbled, trying to stay in the lee of a staggering and stumbling parka-clad adult. “Right now,” he said, “the snowflakes are like the blades of a knife.” People covered their eyes with their hands, as if in grief. Boots skidded on the downslope to the school doors, requiring a painful correction through the lower back. The halls of the apartment building were full of a burning-oil odor, carried all the way up the stairwell from the snowblowers going in and out of the basement. The visibility improved, then got worse again. The snowflakes were replaced by something invisible, then returned as huge cartoonish fluffy things, traveling horizontally on the wind. A few of the fluffy chunks caught an eddy right outside the window and drifted in the opposite direction, while the mass of the rest rushed by. The wind whipped at everything pliable on the next building’s balconies — a furled shade umbrella, the plastic cover over cardboard boxes, a flapping tangle of who knows what. Things settled into a soaking drizzle, over slush puddles too wide and numerous to avoid. Coming home, the first-grader’s jeans cuff popped out of one boot and grew waterlogged. The storm was broken as a snowstorm, but it continued, a soggy ruin. In the dark, there was thunder. The forecast had suggested thunder-snow, but the windows looked out on nothing but ordinary drenched lightlessness.