Zippering up as he left me he opened the door and stopped on the threshold to blink and swallow and move some blood around his body. I sort of bounced around and he sort of breathed a little and a piece of ice fell from his jacket to land on the wood below.

He turned his gloves back to right-side-in from inside-out, and he did it slow, real slow. I was sort of humming and he sort of hummed along with me, pretending to know the song but he couldnít have cause I was making it up as I went along.

When he finished with the gloves he started on his hat, turning it out the proper way, which didnít take too long cause really, a hat is a hat and is less complicated than a glove. So he turned his hat right-side-in and I sort of stopped bouncing and he quit the humming and I did too and we stood for a moment and moved the blood through our bodies.

And his gloves were ready to go and I could tell, and his jacket and hat wanted to leave and I knew. But he wanted to stay, just him with his blinking and breathing. And all the stuff that didnít matter was leaning out and he was leaning in and I knew that he was feeling oddly obliged to his clothing.

When I touched his sleeve his jacket pulled back sort of sudden, but his ears moved in and then he was standing all off-kilter, his jacket leaning toward the door and his ears wanting inside. So thatís what I went for, his ear, real light and gentle I touched his ear, right below his hat, and that was that. He was staying. His ears had decided.

Iíve often thought about us as a zipper, zippering together sometimes and then zippering apart. That night past midnight real late the fire cooled ember orange and the ice by the door let loose and slid through the cracks in the floor. The windows breathed frost and the house hugged the boards and beams and paint and shingles and stairways and walls, hugged them so tight that their bones creaked. The house hugged and sighed and nestled down into its foundation, casting its eyes down and turning its face away from the snow. We zippered up too and lay before the falling fire, thinking about before and after and in-between. Thinking mostly, talking little.