Ice man

Issue of 2003-02-10
Posted 2003-12-12
I married an ice man. I first met him in a hotel at a ski resort, which is probably the perfect place to
meet an ice man. The hotel lobby was crowded with animated young people, but the ice man was
sitting by himself on a chair in the corner farthest from the fireplace, quietly reading a book.
Although it was nearly noon, the clear, chilly light of an early-winter morning seemed to linger
around him.
"Look, that's an ice man," my friend whispered.
At the time, though, I had absolutely no idea what an ice man was. My friend didn't, either. "He
must be made of ice. That's why they call him an ice man." She said this to me with a serious
expression, as if she were talking about a ghost or someone with a contagious disease.
The ice man was tall, and he seemed to be young, but his stubby, wirelike hair had patches of white
in it, like pockets of unmelted snow. His cheekbones stood out sharply, like frozen stone, and his
fingers were rimed with a white frost that looked as if it would never melt. Otherwise, though, the
ice man seemed like an ordinary man. He wasn't what you'd call handsome, but you could see that
he might be very attractive, depending on how you looked at him. In any case, something about him
pierced me to the heart, and I felt this, more than anywhere, in his eyes. His gaze was as silent and
transparent as the splinters of light that pass through icicles on a winter morning. It was like the
single glint of life in an artificial body.
I stood there for a while and watched the ice man from a distance. He didn't look up. He just sat
without moving, reading his book as though there were no one else around him.
The next morning, the ice man was in the same place again, reading a book in exactly the same
way. When I went to the dining room for lunch, and when I came back from skiing with my friends
that evening, he was still there, directing the same gaze onto the pages of the same book. The same
thing happened the day after that. Even when the sun sank low, and the hour grew late, he sat in his
chair, as quiet as the winter scene outside the window.
On the afternoon of the fourth day, I made up some excuse not to go out on the slopes. I stayed in
the hotel by myself and loitered for a while in the lobby, which was as empty as a ghost town. The
air there was warm and moist, and the room had a strangely dejected smell — the smell of snow that
had been tracked in on the soles of people's shoes and was now melting in front of the fireplace. I looked out the windows, rustled through the pages of a newspaper or two, and then went over to
the ice man, gathered my nerve, and spoke.
I tend to be shy with strangers and, unless I have a very good reason, I don't usually talk to people I
don't know. But I felt compelled to talk to the ice man no matter what. It was my last night at the
hotel, and if I let this chance go by I feared I would never get to talk with an ice man again.
"Don't you ski?" I asked him, as casually as I could.
He turned his face toward me slowly, as if he'd heard a noise in the distance, and he stared at me
with those eyes. Then he calmly shook his head. "I don't ski," he said. "I just like to sit here and
read and look at the snow." His words formed white clouds above him, like comic-strip captions. I
could actually see the words in the air, until he rubbed them away with a frost-rimed finger.
I had no idea what to say next. I just blushed and stood there. The ice man looked into my eyes and