Night of Frost

Catherine paced the warm living room as she awaited Vincent's arrival. She felt silly for being nervous, but this, after all, would be the first time he entered her apartment. It was late January and far too cold out on her balcony for their planned evening. Yet another reason she was nervous.

A week earlier, they had sat on the natural stone bench overlookint the falls; Vincent was reading some of his favorite poems to her. When he finished, he asked who her favorite writer or poet was. Her thoughts immediately went to the very intimate and sensual Pablo Neruda, and the bucolic, and sometimes disturbing, Robert Frost.

But though she mentioned both poets, Vincent seemed willing only to talk about Frost.

Acquainted with the Night is one of my favorite poems; it reminds me of the city. When I walk above I feel his words.”

“I’ve always found that poem disturbing. Did you know that the city as he describes it is actually a metaphor for depression?”

“Yes, but when I walk above, I see and feel the world he brought to life.”

They continued their discussion and Catherine suggested a project for them both.

“Vincent? Would you come above next Saturday? We could each select a poem to read which has a special meaning or memory attached. We can tell why we chose the poem, and then read it to each other.”

“Catherine… It’s too cold to sit on your balcony for a poetry reading.”

“Yes it is. But, if you would come inside… I could make us a late dinner, and then we could read together.”

Could Vincent sense how much this meant to her? She could see he was hesitant to agree.

“Please Vincent…”

She remembered her disappointment at the cancelled trip to Connecticut the past autumn…

“Very well… next Saturday. Now let me walk you back. It’s late.”

For the entire week, she chose and discarded one poem after another. Nothing spoke to her. She toyed with the idea of Pablo Neruda, but dropped that idea - Neruda was far too sensual. Before she could finish one verse, Vincent would run for the balcony and disappear from sight!

“No, Neruda in my apartment would be far too intimate for his first visit. Best to leave Pablo for a Spring reading!”

By Friday, Catherine had yet to come to a decision. She had several books of poetry on her desk at home. She had read so many poems this week that she was starting to think in iambic tetrameter!

Maybe walking home would clear her head and she would come up with something? As she left the office, it was snowing again, so she decided to take a taxi and pick up something to eat before a short stroll to the Mall and Literary Walk. Maybe she would find inspiration among the masters.

As she walked the length of the Mall, the beauty of everything covered in a white veil of new snow moved her. It was as if she were alone in the park. The snow muffled the sounds of the city allowing her to hear the creaking of branches weighed down with the weight of the heavy wet snow. Of course! Suddenly she couldn’t wait to get home. Tomorrow night Vincent would finally take that step forward and come inside.

She checked the clock on the mantle: 9:45. He should be here soon. She turned at a gentle tapping upon the French doors to the balcony. She hurried to let him in. “I wasn’t sure you would come…”

“I said I would.”


Vincent had faced his own challenges choosing a poem. He hadn’t read a lot of Pablo Neruda - Father didn’t approve of him. However, he had read some… secretly. He asked one of the older boys to borrow a book of his poetry from the library, maybe there was one… But after a dream-disturbed night sent him for an early morning swim in the frigid waters below the falls, he decided against Neruda. He only hoped Catherine hadn’t chosen one of his poems, either!

Now he stood at her balcony doors. He raised his hand and hesitated before lightly tapping on the pane.

“Come in,” she said. “It’s freezing out there. I’ve started a fire. Make yourself comfortable while I get dinner.” She shut the doors behind him and drew the curtains.

“Is there anything I can help you with?”

“No, Lorenzo took care of everything.”

He looked past her shoulder, to her kitchen. “Lorenzo?”

“Cooking has never been one of my strong points; I ordered Veal Piccata from Lorenzo’s”

He placed his hand over his heart in feigned shock. “Catherine! I thought I was getting a home cooked meal?”

“Not if you want to live through dinner.”

He looked around her living room before taking a seat. The stack of books on the side table set his heart pounding in his chest! There, on the top of the stack was Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair… Surely, she wouldn’t…

When dinner was through, he asked, “Would you like to read first, Catherine?"

“Why don’t you go first Vincent? You’re my guest, after all."

“Very well… I know we started this discussion with Acquainted with the Night, so I’d like to read it to you and tell you what I see in his words.”

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Catherine sighed when he finished. “Vincent, you read beautifully."

Vincent inclined his head in thanks.

“The streets he speaks of are my streets, Catherine. I know only the darkness of night in the city, its quiet desperation. I don’t know the city of light and the bustling day. There is a quiet longing to the night.

“I’ve never thought of it that way.”

He hesitated before asking and glanced at the stack of books. “What have you chosen, Catherine?”

“I chose Frost as well.” She picked up a book and he held his breath until he heard the first … safe … words.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

“I didn’t know what to read tonight,” she said. “I’ve read more poetry this week than I ever did in Lit classes. I went for a walk in the park last night, to clear my head and it was so quiet. … It had begun to snow again. All the statues were blanketed in snow, and the only sounds were the crunch of snow as I walked and the distant and muffled sounds of the city. I stood there and closed my eyes and the image of a quiet wood and harness bells filled my mind.”

“It was a lovely choice, Catherine. I love the quiet of the park when it snows.”

They sat together while shared images of the city at night, in a blanket of snow filled their imaginations, as they relaxed in the quiet of her warm apartment.

Catherine rose to stir the fire.

“Shall we each read another?” he asked, as he reached for Neruda…

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NYC Utopia July 17, 2011 at 10:02 PM  

Mmm... an ending full of promises :)
Good job!

Linn July 19, 2011 at 10:19 AM  

Wonderfuly written! Loved the humor, and giggled outright at Catherine's comment about her cooking:-) Vincent reading Neruda... *sigh*.

OKGoode July 19, 2011 at 11:45 AM  

I don't think I'm old enough to think about Vincent reading Neruda... *shiver*

I loved it, especially what's left unsaid at the end

Cyndi D July 19, 2011 at 4:41 PM  

I have Carole to thank for her wonderful suggestion for the ending!

RomanticOne July 20, 2011 at 10:01 PM  

I really liked this one. What a clever way for Catherine to get Vincent inside her apartment. It was funny how they both shied away from Neruda...and sexy the way the story ended with the promise of Neruda. Frost wrote some really deep poetry but I've always liked him. He always gave us something to think about.

Vicky July 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM  

Awwww! This is very sweet, Cyndi! I can so see it as one of those reading endings of some episodes... Great job! Very love!

Cyndi D July 23, 2011 at 6:38 AM  

Thank you all so much! I still don't trust my writing abilities, so all your comments make me want to continue and to improve. Writing is a scary thing under normal circumstances, but writing about such beloved people as Vincent and Catherine can be terrifying! So, I thank you all, again.

Krista July 23, 2011 at 6:45 AM  

Cyndi, I could have sworn I left a comment on this, but apparently I hadn't. It's a lovely story---and having read a lot of Neruda just recently, I can totally see why Father (ahem) might not have approved. ;)

Such a promise you've given them for the future too...I love the ending.

-Krista :)

Three Writers July 23, 2011 at 2:05 PM  

Cyndi, thank you for this piece, for the humor about the home cooked meal, for the worry as each tried to choose just the right poem, for Vincent FINALLY entering Catherine's apartment and for telling me some things I didn't know about Frost and Neruda. What fun Vincent's last suggestion was! Thank you. I enjoyed this so much.

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