In December, the radiators begin to hiss. I heard it first in my bedroom last weekend—the susurrations of the old metal machine by my bedside table. I shivered. Sometimes I tape postcards to my radiators; they smell of heat when I hold them to my face. Sometimes, the tape melts, and the postcards fall off. I always glue them to the shower curtain when they do.
Radiators taste like nostalgia. I’ve never licked one, per se, but then again, maybe I have; maybe we all have. Maybe the child inside each of us just wants that first titillating touch to the cold metal. It’s like saying goodbye to innocence. What is innocence?
When I was 12, my friend and I spent the night in an old barn. The radiators were hissing furiously. Why are there radiators in this barn? my friend and I wondered. To keep the pitchforks warm? We couldn’t decide, so we went back to sleep. Sometimes, I ask myself the same questions about the radiator in my own room.
Who put this here? I ask. What frostbitten young person begged their parents to buy a radiator 50 years ago? I’m astounded by the idea that somebody might have lived in my house before me; might have licked this same radiator. Goats like to eat metal; why shouldn’t humans? The furry, comforting texture of goat fur strangely seems to embody the comfort of my radiator. It amazes me that life is so cyclical.
I’ll be a college student next year. A new set of friends; a new set of classes; a new radiator. Maybe several new radiators. In the shivery months, my roommates and I will crowd around them for comfort, just as my friends and I once did the night we secretly camped in an abandoned sewage plant and wrote our names on pieces of bark. These roommates, these future friends, gathered from near and far; before I go to sleep tonight, I imagine meeting a girl who’s never owned a radiator. Such an integral part of my life, missing from hers. I can smell the heat.