School was finally over, and Mike and I marched out, and began to walk. I was 12, and Mike was my best friend. We set off towards my house, a 15 minute walk through the newly gathered snow.
Now, the thing about snow is, not all of it makes good snowballs. We’d been told it was “packing snow” that you had to look for. That’s the kind you could squeeze together easily and it would stay together. The fluffy, white powdery kind wouldn’t do the trick… Not if you’re throwing them.
I bent down, quickly gathering the snow and knew within seconds that we were in luck. Off we went then, snowballs in hand. There’s sort of an unspoken rule that once you’ve made the perfect snowball, you have to throw it at something. You can’t just juggle it around, and then toss it aside. Let’s face it, the reason you want a perfect snowball is because you’re looking for a perfect target.
As we walked along the sidewalk, we just didn’t find any perfect targets in sight. In fact, the only sight aside from the bright rays of the sun, the blanket of snow on the ground, and the wooden fence we were passing was a little girl up ahead.
I think she was wearing a dark pink jacket and humming, as she walked towards home. Not being accustomed to throwing snowballs at girls, let along a girl who looked to be nearly half my age, I kept scanning around.
She was at least 40 feet ahead of us. Finally, I decided on a plan.
“I’m going to throw this snowball way, way up into the air… and I’m going to nail that girl right on the head,” I told Mike. He didn’t believe me. I didn’t believe me, either, and that’s why I threw it.
Up it went, like an arrow. Way up. As we watched it, almost mesmerized by the white ball spinning up further and further against the backdrop of a too bright sun, a suddenly realization came over me. In fact, hints of certainty started to form right as I felt that snowball brush my finger tips, as it began it’s ascent. That hint became a conviction: It’s going to hit her.
So we stood there, watching, as the snowball reached it’s zenith and accelerated downwards. Almost in slow motion it seemed to fall. I seem to remember actually seeing a shadow cast on that little girls hat, a couple seconds before it landed, but memory is a tricky, thing.
It fell from the sky almost directly on the top of her head, exploding like a star, and sending glittering flakes in every direction. As certain as I had thought I felt, I was now incredulous that is had actually happened. Seconds went by. Mike and I stared, mouths open. An eerie silence fell upon us, and upon that girl. It was a silence that seemed to emphasize the gravity of the last sound made, a terribly loud thud.
I was honestly afraid at that moment. Afraid I was going to get caught! I didn’t really know it would hit her, but the fact I had declared my intentions so clearly right before throwing it, seemed to guarantee my guilt. I did throw it, after all. I threw that snowball. Oh boy, I was going to be in trouble.
I thought about running. I was only a few minutes from home. I could run, and maybe nobody else would ever know about it. And then, the silence was broken. She was staring right at us, and crying, snow covering her forehead. It was, perhaps, something that should have only hastened my desire to run, but somehow a new feeling emerged that swallowed up the fear of being found out.
It occurred to me at that moment that she must have thought we were absolutely terrible. She must have thought I was terrible. Like I was some evil monster of kid, who had honed his snowball marksmanship skills for the sole purpose of making little girls cry. I did the only thing that I could do at that moment. I ran.
But, I ran to her. “I’m so sorry! I never meant for that snowball to hit you,” I assured her, brushing off snow from her reddened face. I asked her if she was hurt. I kept telling her it was a mistake. She stopped crying almost immediately, and told me it was alright. I think she could see I genuinely was horrified over what had happened.
I never thought about snowballs quite the same way after that. I never thought about girls quite the same way, either. It wasn’t until I had made one cry, that I realized how fragile they can be. I never had a sister, and my only female friend was a tom boy. I still think of that day sometimes. It seems so silly that of all the things I could feel regret over, that is the one that jumps into my mind.
I still feel this… debt. I feel like I never truly made up for what I did to that girl. I feel like I should have done more. I was young, but I should have known better. What else I could have done for her, I just don’t know, but 17 years later I still feel guilty.
I never would have thought that something so transient as a snowball, could possibly remain with me all this time. I doubt she even remembers it, and I can’t understand why I’m not able to forget. It was just a snowball…
I was a bit of a trouble maker as a child. But I always had some excuse for making trouble for whoever it was I made trouble for. And most of the time, I’d end up in trouble myself as a consequence. Those times are easy to forget. That snowball just won’t melt.