Silent before the echoes

November 24th, 2002

"I've been up all night. I might sleep all day."
Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood)
Counting Crows

Hut ten is a two-bedroom ranch house indistinguishable from any house in suburban America. There's a big-screen TV in the living room. The kitchen is a little tight, but the bathroom has marble and tile. The beds are bare, military issue.

Hut ten is next to Our Lady of the Snows, the home of religion on McMurdo Sound.

You have to take your shoes off before you go inside. When you're inside you feel like you're in Indiana.

If you lived there you'd never have a party with more than six or seven people. There's no room for you to sit.

Because there is no such thing as personal space in Antarctica, there were a hundred people in hut ten last night. Me and ninety-nine others. Or maybe there were only sixty.

Outside it was snowing hard. The view over the sound was floor-to-ceiling white, the infinite nothing from which the first life emerged.

Inside we were rocking to Counting Crows. Then something more funky. Dancey.

There were six trays of alcoholic jello circulating around the crowd. On a number of occasions a spoon of quivering vodka-laden cherry jello appeared under my nose. And then again.

Bombay gin and orange soda. Vodka and Five Alive. Canterbury Dark. Speight's.

Someone made pinatas out of cardboard. Skua effigies. Ten-thousand dollar fine for molesting the suckers outside. We'll whack them in here.

They blindfolded participants with a crevasse marker, handed them a broom handle, and let them wail. Inside was candy. Little elastic bracelets with donuts of colored sugar wound up on people's necks and wrists.

After a couple people left, there was room to dance. I was going to watch and feel bad I couldn't do it.

Someone grabbed my hands. Pulled me out. Showed me how.

She says, "It doesn't matter if you're good. You have to try. Be here for a little while."

I'm trying. I'm thinking of ice. I'm thinking outside in all that white is the deep blue ice that formed before any of us walked this earth or shed a tear for time long gone.

Everything here is ancient. Everything here remembers when the planet was young and lonely and silent before our voices ricochetted from outer space to shopping malls. Everything here is free from the glaze we apply to make it seem like home.

Everything here is deadly, fearsome, and cold.

Except us.

Home. I'm dancing in the living room at the end of the world. Here is the china. Here is the TV. Here is the carpet. My shoes are by the door so I don't track in the mud. This is the stereo. This is the beer. These are the children, born from the white.