Now, when Odin hears “meat locker”, he thinks of discovery scenes in uninspired thrillers where an investigator finds out where the killer was keeping his victims and why it was so hard to calculate time of death, and where an important character is ultimately trapped and their blue skin covered with frost while they try in vain to 1)break the door open and 2)get a signal on their phone.
But as a boy, the meat locker was where you kept the meat. Mom would say, get your coat even if it was summer and you rode in the station wagon to the Bi-Lo Market on Highway 99, the bell ringing over the door as you entered the store, and went back into the meat locker where you could rent space and where they kept a side of beef they had raised, and which a man had cut and packaged in white butcher paper in exchange for the other half of the animal he had shot from his truck, then hoisted on a crane mounted on the bed, opened in a flood of gore with a small chainsaw (to the amazement of neighborhood kids watching) and gutted right there in the field.
Now everything in life is bewilderingly and confusingly malleable and relative, but at that time the world was solid and given, the meat locker and the man who ran the Bi-Lo and everyone else just were, requiring understanding and comprehension as little as the mountains on the horizon or the macadam of the parking lot.
Everything just was and always had been and always would be, amen. Everything was mysterious, but there was no other way it could be, understanding was neither possible nor required. People were what their uniform said they were or what your parents told you. There was no death and no age and no change. There was only scratching a dog behind the ears or on the sweet spot on its back that made it pedal with one leg, the soft texture of a horse’s nose, the grain of the boards on a wood fence, the taste of wild blackberries dusty from the road and warm from the sun. Adults did what they did, mysterious. You went to school. You read the short articles at the front of every section in the World Book Encyclopedia about the evolution of the letters of the alphabet, and learned new words from the unabridged dictionary.
Everything was solid granite, and what is there to understand about granite?
The inside of the meat locker is white.
The light is dim but your eyes adjust.
When he finds himself in a universe in which time has stopped, or become malleable, Odin returns to the meat locker and observes the events of his life as they hang suspended in the fog his cold breath makes. He walks among them and studies them from all angles and perspectives.
As a boy, things were mysterious but this was no cause for alarm, it was their nature and it was the nature of a boy to be ignorant and mystified.
As a man, things are sometimes confusing. Sometimes you think they are not confusing and that you have everything sussed, and sometimes you do but sometimes you find later on that you were mistaken, or you are mistaken but you never find out and either no one else does either, or they do but are too polite to tell you. Things happen fast and are confusing and sometimes you figure them out and sometimes you do not.
So in the meat locker, in the absence of time, Odin has a rare respite from things changing faster than he can figure them out and can approximate wisdom by looking and looking until he finds an angle that makes sense. He can find the opportunity in a crisis, the lesson in a failure, and the good intention behind something that had hurt his pride.
It’s all hanging there on hooks in the cold, amidst the meat.
He can look until his lips turn blue, if he wants.