I took my dog on a walk the other night, and it was SO foggy out. The whole time, I was mesmerized by it.
It was like the neighborhood was closed for the night, like the curtain had been pulled and we weren’t walking on actual streets, but a set, a neighborhood backdrop on an empty stage. It felt like the world had been turned off. The fog muted / swallowed / absorbed all sound. The only thing I heard was the dripping of rain drops, which was odd because I didn’t feel any. It felt like we were walking in a bubble of light made by my phone’s flashlight, but as if that were fake too, a light just bright enough to illuminate us for the night, not the other way around. It only shone down, at our feet and the sidewalk. If I pointed the beam up, it bounced back in my face like hitting a force field.
I sneezed once, and it was the loudest sound in the world.
Nothing looked right in the fog. I thought I saw a branch or an object in the road, but it had no definition, and when I tried to shine the light on it, the light bounced back on me, keeping the thing in mystery. Later, I saw what could have been a snake in the street, a blurry dark line stretched across the asphalt. When my steps took me closer, I discovered it was a manhole cover, something that doesn’t look like a snake at all. Once, I turned around, and at the end of the street behind us, in the cone of moist light from the streetlamp, I saw another figure or two, and for a moment my breath caught. Their shapes looked so scary, and they made no sound in that weird empty quiet place. But then I blinked, and they became normal silhouettes, two people and a dog, but still their silence and shadowy outlines felt unreal and ghostly. Only now, do I realize that’s how my dog and I must have looked to them too, or to anyone peering out of the fake windows of the fake houses as we walked by in our bubble.
I love the idea of fog. It’s mysterious and creepy and beautiful and suggests rainy nights and cool weather. But in practice, it’s never quite what I expect. The first moment of encountering it is one of amazement and joy and eeriness, but I quickly get confused and frustrated by the very characteristics that make it fog– its blurriness and visual depletion. I find myself peering at / through / around it trying to see it better, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know what I expect fog to look like, what I expect familiar locations like my neighborhood or school to look like in the fog, but whatever I expect, I’m always wrong somehow. Because that’s the whole thing– you can’t see it BECAUSE of the fog.
It reminds me of how I always thought it would be fun to watch the rain through the catwalk at my former middle school. But the beautiful sunny catwalk, on a rainy day, was– you guessed it– rainy. It was cloudy and gray and sometimes covered in condensation, and the rain falling and running on the glass obscured the view of the sky, which makes complete sense but always somehow amazed and disappointed me. Somehow I thought I’d be able to see the rain falling as well as the sky beyond it.
The mystery of fog is part of its attraction for me. Of course it’s that glowing fog off the ocean you really have to watch out for. That stuff is a killer. Literally. Also be wary of gold coins that turn into driftwood and 100-year-old curses. Looks like it’s time to watch John Carpenter’s The Fog again. And then to avoid walks in the fog for awhile…