Blame it on the Wind Chill

Chapter 13

It humours me to think that just as soon as our brand spankin’ new friendship had been formally established, we’ve fallen back into a lapse of awkward silence. She keeps glancing at me, well, either me or the mirror so she can change lanes, although I blindly believe the former. And it isn’t like I’m not sneaking looks of her steering with pure concentration in her sexy baseball cap and the folds of shiny hair that tumbles beneath it, touching just above the small of her back. Even so, it’s not exactly what you’d have in mind for a romantic evening drive. But I mean it’s not like we’re a couple or anything.

We’re just friends.

Only she’s just disconcertingly attractive. In a way, and as shallow as this sounds, I’m a tad surprised and disappointed that the NHL-card hasn’t worked out like it usually does with the female, hockey-loving variety. Then again, my rookie hard is not so much Orlando Bloom and more vintage Gino Reda. It’s pretty brutal, and unlike Hollywood, there’s no aid of the digital retouch, albeit it’s little distance from Anaheim. Besides, Photoshop is for pussies. Like say, the LA Kings.

She’s breathing steadily next to me and her hands brushes against mine just as she reaches for the half-empty cup of Tim Horton’s coffee, and I’m thinking her not saying anything is a sign of some sort. Not necessarily bad like Road Closed or Falling Rocks or Cops Hide Here, pointing to a bush off the street.

I don’t know what it means, but I feel the tension.

I rest my head against the window and decide that this city’s not so bad in winter. The snow’s picked up again to just a gentle flurry, covering everything from rooftops and wandering squirrels in winter’s soft blanket. There are children in their fluorescent winter garb, pelting each other with balls of ice and gravel, which is now acceptable that school’s ended, under the twinkling glow of the fairy lights that cast their hue on the icicles that hang beneath them.

“Weather’s nice,” I say pointlessly. She nods. “It’s cold though.”

“Typically is this time of year,” comes the dead response.

“Oh, Party Packagers!” I exclaim, reading store names, as we’re driving by a mall. “Blockbusters…with a big Store Closing banner. And Loblaw’s too. Sorry, that’s bad English. Loblaw’s as well.” There follows a beat of silence. I clear my throat loudly.

Becky gives me an odd look. “You know, you’re the one who’s making this awkward.” I gape at her. “I’m perfectly fine driving in silence, alone with my thoughts.”

“Well, me too. I was just, uh, trying to converse, but if you don’t want to because you’re allergic to socialization then that’s also fine by me,” I blurt quickly with words jamming together in an unintelligible kind of way. “I have lots of thoughts, too, you know.”

“Is that right,” she mutters with heavy laden sarcasm, swerving around to avoid a piece of roadkill that may or may not have been a tabby cat with proficient keyboard skills. “You didn’t strike me as the deep type.”

It kind of hurts me because I don’t want to be known as another stereotypical, uneducated athlete with an abominable IQ, who marries the bimbo trophy wife. I’m smarter that that, at least I’d like to believe so. After all, I’m fairly certain that the capital of Australia is Canberra and four to the power of zero is one, and that puts me just ahead of Stamkos, Doughty, Cogliano, and a whole slew of 2009 NHL young stars in the fifth-grade trivia department.

“I have plenty of deep thoughts.” She’s wearing a skeptical raised eyebrow and it makes me question the importance of the things I do think about: funny Internet memes, Pierre McGuire, nolstalgia towards my childhood, and really, I guess I’m not profound at all.

“Depending on your definition of ‘deep’.” She’s stopping at a yellow light at an intersection, which earns her a few honks. “It’s a fucking yellow light, buddy!” she barks, indignant, not like the impatient gadabout in the green Mazda can hear her. I sure can, though. “Oh, sorry,” she turns to me. “I’m not usually an angry driver.” I laugh and she pouts, vaguely explaining something about the earth’s tides and PMS and at last we’re back where we started, chattering about meaningless things and cracking the semi-funny jokes.

I take in our surroundings and it occurs to me I have no idea where in the world we’re going. Well, where in Scarborough, although city boundaries are still fuzzy to me at this point.

I ask her how many miles away Travis lives.

“I no speak Americano,” she drawls in her stupid interpretation of a southern accent, as we’re cruising on the open road. There are very little cars now. In a slightly concerning way.

“My bad, metric. How far?”

“Forgiven, imperial.” She takes her hands off the wheel for a milisecond to unzip her coat a bit and it almost gives me a stroke. Hands on the wheel! I want to yell at her, but the expression she wears is chill, like she's in control. As a tractor-trailer flies by, I don’t know about her, but personally, I’d prefer not to die on the open road. It was tragic enough when it happened to Bourdon and judging by the sparsity of this area, I’m guessing the quickest route for EMS is down from the north by snowmobile.

“Not far, but that’s not where we’re going right now.”

My heart skips a beat, and not in a good way. “Are you planning on killing me or something?” I joke uneasily, gulping hard when a slight smirk appears on her face.

“Oh relax. Trust me, if I wanted to do that you’d be dead by now.”

“Oh, okay,” I sigh, relieved. “Wait—what?” She shrugs innocently and bites her lip enough to make me groan. What a comforting thought. I’ve befriended a beautiful girl who may or may not be capable of manslaughter. Pretty sure that’s how all black widow stories on Dateline begin.

“Are we there yet?” I ask, after what seems like eons. Trees outside the window are starting to shapeshift into…other types of trees. Did we pass a tree line of some sort? I remember learning something in the likes in ninth grade geography.

“Honey, we’ve been driving for ten minutes.”

No way. I check my phone, in disbelief. Well. “Feels longer than that.” I check my texts briefly—mostly get well soon wishes, and one troubling message about picking up some medication for diarrhea from Teemu Selanne. There’s another text following that states the original text was meant for Koivu and if I would kindly forward the message to him since I’m “probably not doing much anyway”. Finns. I start to play with some stupid app.

“Bored?” she asks redundantly as if I wasn’t wearing a sticker that said so, plain as day, on my forehead. “Drew and I usually play one of those stupid road games, but I guess scanning traffic for a yellow Buggie counts as distracted driving now. According to Cam Woolley.” I blink several times. “I like watching Canada’s Worst Driver, okay?

“It makes me feel better about my driving,” she adds under her breath.

I’m making a mental note to Google the application process for that.

“What?” She’s merging into the bigger lane without checking her blind spots, which makes me want to get into that crash landing position like I’ve been taught to in the numerous pre-flight animations they make us watch. I’m guessing she sees the panicked expression on my face and that I’m staring straight up at the ceiling. Well, I would be, if my eyes weren’t squeezed shut like I’m headed for that final destination. “Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m honestly a very safe driver. I’m even going the speed limit—”

“—It’s not the speed I’m worried about!” I crack open an eye.

She gives me a dismissive harumph. “I just have some unorthodox habits. I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out by now.”

Actually, I think that was one of the first things I figured out about her. She’s different; she plays to her own tune, and that’s one of the things I like—find most refreshing about her. I just don’t know if I trust her when it comes to my wellbeing. Then again, I’ve ridden with a lot of scary drivers in juniors; their recklessness makes her seem like a law-abiding citizen in comparison, which allows me to breathe a little easier.

“Not a method man. Got it.”

“Wu-Tang Clang. Greatest hits in the compartment right in front of you.”

Reaching to flick on the light, I become a little more excited; the fact that she has taste in old school rap impresses me. Plus, it’s a little sexy. After all, I like big butts and I cannot lie. The CD is wedged in between a Domo toy with the price tag still attached and a set of Vegas-like fuzzy dice. There’s actually a surprising amount of junk stuffed in this thing. I definitely took her for one of those anal, OCD, control-freaks that buys sanitizer by the gallon and is competitive in speed scrubbing. Guess I was wrong. “You compartmentalize a lot, don’t you?”

“This wasn’t an invitation to snoop, dawg.”

“So clever.” I see a few pink Post-it notes stuck to the side with illegible cursive writing scrawled on it—something about milk and something else about ‘Kate’s birth control pills’. Not interested. I dig deeper and find something truly disturbing, reiterating my fears in her all over again. “Woah, what the, what the fuck is this? Your version of Edward Scissorhands?” I take out the scary apparatus in its original packaging that looks like something out of Inspector Gadget or a lethal weapon Trinity from the Matrix would use.

“Don’t…point that at me. We all know what great hands you got.” I roll my eyes at her. People need to learn to let things go, for goodness sakes. “Yeah, no, it’s the multi-purpose tool from Canadian Tire,” she reads the label to me. “On sale from 19.99 to 9.99.”

“Useful, huh?”

“Well,” she begins, snatching it away from me and holding it above in a menacing way. She smiles. “It’s multi-purpose.”

“Yeah,” I whistle, as she tosses it harmlessly into the backseat. “Jesus, what is this? Were you not kidding about the hustling from this morning?”

“What?” She squints, confused. I hold the thick wad of money held together by rubber bands out to her and she laughs like I did something stupid and American. Which should not be confused for synonyms. “That’s Canadian Tire money. You know, like cash rebates in a way. Only cooler and even more Monopoly-like.”

“That is pretty sick,” I admit. Why don’t I ever get any of this? Is this something solely for Canadians, I want to know. I feel cheated out. Actually, maybe I have gotten a couple of these bills before. Never noticed, really. “You sure have a lot, though. Enough to shoot a hip hop music video. You know, bills, bills, bills, blowing in the wind.” I smile at her, and she can’t help but to roll her eyes and crack a small grin herself.

“Well, I buy a lot of hockey equipment for your uncle. And if you’ve noticed most of them are worth little more than a few cents.” Well, that stinks. “Stop touching it, anyway. This isn’t the Cash Cab.”

I notice we’re driving on an angled tilt. That can’t be good. I don’t remember Ontario ever being a mountainous region, well, maybe half a billion years ago. Canadian Shield, anyone? See, I know this. “Is it just me or are we driving uphill?”

“Congrats for noticing. Don’t you have a good eye.”

“20/20, babe. I have to see the ice well. Gotta make a living.” I see her looking into my blue eyes and lingering a second longer than she’s supposed to. “God, this is like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.”

“I’m shocked you even know what that is.” She presses a thumb to her lower lip and furrows her brows. Does it scare her that perhaps we’re on an academically even playing field? Her sophisticated language doesn’t intimidate me. Oh ho ho.

It dawns on me that as different as we are, we’re actually pretty similar people, in an enigmatic kind of way.

We cut through a gas station to avoid turning at the busy intersection. She tells me it’s faster this way. I tell her I’m just glad we’re back to civilization. Finch is a lonely road at night. I catch a glimpse of a minivan full of kids in the rear-view mirror, laughing belligerently, while acting absolutely ridiculous.

“Looks like someone just got his license,” comments Becky. “The driver looks fifteen.”

You look fifteen,” I laugh. She’s not the tallest tree in the forest.

She’s giving me the evil eye now and I’m wondering why I decided to fight her on this in the first place. Looking at the driver again, a skinny ginger boy wearing a wife beater and some dollar store bike chains, he does exude youth.

“I have boobs. You can’t grow facial hair. I think that settles the puberty debate.”

My eyes glance away from her face for a moment before feeling her hot glare ready to tase me down like an OPP officer. I finger my own barely-there blonde wisps on my chin. She has point. “How do you even know that?”

She shrugs. “Hey look, Peter Pan left his gas cap open.” Indeed, the cap is open as can be as the young man speeds away in his pimpin’ soccer-mom car.

“It doesn’t really matter though,” I chime in.

“Yeah, he just looks like a dumbass,” she sneers. “Oh. Oh. Wait a second. Magic School Bus is pulling over.” I’m laughing really hard at her series of TSN play-by-plays and then watching the kid jump out, and quickly do the deed before swaggering back into the car is almost enough to make me pee a little bit.

“Yeah Peter! Alright, we are almost there,” she says and gestures to a plaza in the approaching distance.

All of a sudden, I see a lot of Chinese words flashing at in my face and the Caucasian in me is thoroughly challenged and confused. “Wait, I thought we were just picking up beer. Why are we at an Asian supermarket?” I slowly process the facts. “Wait, is their beer better?”

Laughing, she tells me there’s a Beer Store around the corner. “Cam, it’s not just about the booze.” She cocks her head towards me. “I need to pick up some things for some people and no—these things are not of the illegal variety.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell?”

There’s a huge pileup of cars circling the lot, honking rudely and excessively, which does nothing for the Asian stereotype, not hating. Out of what appears to be pure luck, a spot opens up. Without hesitation she reverses hard with a single hand on the wheel and I swear we’re crashing into the post.

“Come on,” she turns towards me when I finally open my eyes. “Friend.”
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I was sick today, so here you go. :) And this.