Blame it on the Wind Chill

Chapter 7

I know he put the box somewhere, I’m trying to think as I delve into his cluttered closet. I never imagined he’d have this much stuff. I toss aside some t-shirts and set down a brown box with Styrofoam peanuts, labelled Jared’s Shit in black Sharpie. There’s a box underneath it labelled Private. I open it up to find a pair of tits staring at me. Private is an understatement. I half expect to see Aunt Helen standing over my shoulder, all assassin-like, ready to book me for possession. I immediately shove it back in, innuendo unintended, knocking over a pouch in the process.

“Shit,” I curse. I try to stop the marbles from scattering across the floor with my feet, but no such luck. Damn it. Getting the ones under the bed is going to be a major pain in the ass. As if on cue, Fergie bursts in through the door, tongue hanging out with a dopey look on her face and tail wagging profusely. I chuckle, watching her slip around on the marbles, before jumping into my arms like lovers do in sappy movies.

“Fergie, I missed you,” I laugh, ruffling her ears. She takes the opportunity to go for my mouth giving me the most tongue action I’ve had in months.

She’s a funny-looking little Pekingese, but always a ball of sunshine bouncing off the walls and running as fast as her stubby legs can carry her. She belongs to Tim, a puppy he adopted after watching an infomercial about neglected pets—the one with the really depressing music. He’s a sucker like that, which is why we ended up at the shelter, hung over, on a miserable Saturday morning to pick out a token of our anti-animal abuse values. Fergie, we call her, after John Ferguson Sr., who had died earlier that summer. We could tell this one was going to be a fighter.

Initially we had wanted a big dog, a majestic golden retriever to match my hair, or a Belgian shepherd with fur long enough to stimulate that Fabio-esque chest-hair-blowing-in-the-wind. We wanted a dog that we could wrestle with or fetch stray pucks for us. A dog that would be, in a way, one of the boys. Maybe it was the raging headaches or the storm that day, but we kinda fell for the little caramel puppy with big brown eyes, who yelped helplessly at the sound of thunder. That day we brought her home.

“Wanna play?” She nods erratically, barking and snapping at my face. “Here you go.” I shoot a marble towards the other end of the room and watch as she scrambles after it, sliding all over the place the way the Maple Leafs do in the neutral zone.

Tim and I used to do this all the time; we would throw the marbles in all directions and watch her spasm like crazy. Once when we did this, I thought that she’d swallowed one of the marbles. Of course, that’s exactly what happened. True story. Luckily, she threw it up afterwards. Not so luckily on my parents’ futon in the basement, but we managed to hide the evidence. Tim told me later that he had done something similar as a baby. Isn’t it funny when you find parallels between dogs and their owners? Then again, she never did it again. I can’t confirm anything on Tim’s behalf.

“Fergie!” Aunt Helen calls. “Breakfast!” She gives me a look like, That’s me!, and disappears in a cloud of dust.

Back to the task at hand. I know I’ve seen it before, briefly albeit. Then again, what guy would want to air their personal photos, their dirty laundry for other dudes to see and make fun of? Tim doesn’t air laundry, period.

I find another shoebox, this one unlabeled. So much room for interpretation, but I think this is it. I lift it gingerly, tempted to write a “Wash me” message in the dust on top of it. I carry it over to a clearing on the floor and sit down. I want to get to the bottom of this.

It’s a plain Nike box, adorned with a couple Pokemon stickers, which, never mind the dust, indicates some age. I dump the contents onto the floor. Inside, I find a few photos dating to the winter of ’99. I smile recalling the winter holidays here. That was probably one of my firsts, by that time my parents were determined to make the long drive from Farmington to Toronto. There are photos of snowmen with their traditional button eyes, carrot noses, and bucket heads. I sort of remember the snowball fights and igloo building, but failing to because it had snowed mauja the night before, as opposed to mangikaajaaq, which is more ideal for a sturdy shelter. Spending time in Canada does wonders for the sophistication of your vocabulary. The Inuits sure have a lot of words for snow.

But this is not what I was looking for. There are more pictures, thoroughly documenting Uncle Eric’s ice-making progress. If he didn’t coach, he would be an ice specialist. This is also known as a “zamboni man”. Then there’s a picture of us kids, me in the Red Wings jersey over my snowsuit, Tim in his Leafs gear, and a few other neighbourhood boys. We’re kneeling on the ice, posing the cliché team photo gangster stance. I love it. There’s another one of Tim falling on his ass. I think I remember that. He cried and then cried more because I made fun of him for it. I had my first fight that day.

Behind us, there’s a girl I don’t recognize. I can’t make out the face because 90’s resolution is crap, but she has short dark hair and wears a purple snowsuit with matching boots. She’s in another picture as well, this time clinging on to Tim’s arm; it looks like he’s teaching her how to skate. It can’t be one of our cousins because we’ve all been strapping knives to our feet before we could walk. A few were actually born on the ice. True story. Her eyes are wide with anticipation and her cheeks are red from the wind. She’s smiling the most radiant smile, but there’s something in her eyes. Determination. Strength. A certain if-you-mess-with-me-I’ll-kick-your-ass quality. She’s looking at Tim and he’s looking at her. It’s a real cute Polaroid moment.

The next few pictures are of a sledding trip. The hill was terrible, but we insisted because the break was almost over. A few pictures of the adults pop up, featuring Uncle Eric in one of his finer days. My parents are happy and smiling, the sun is shining, and somewhere in the distance, Cousin Ted is crying. Flashes of memories are hitting be like a barrage of Chara slapshots. I think I dumped snow down his back or something. Wow, I was so mean. The next one is of me on a toboggan with the girl in the purple suit. She’s smiling the same way she did with Tim. I’m guessing this was before the accident.

I’m sure that this is the girl from this morning. I remember it now; she had to go to the hospital afterwards to get stitched up and I felt bad and woozy from the blood on my jersey.

The set ends here.

I grab some more from the bottom of the pile. These are more recent. Why Tim still has developed photos in this day and age is a mystery, but I think he once mentioned his ex was into photography so she might’ve helped with that.

They are of Tim and the girl I met, all grown up. Hold on, she's the ex? In the first one they are on a beach, wearing leis and plastic sunglasses. Then they are at the park, holding hands, sitting on a picnic table, climbing on trees, and acting like lovers do. After that, it’s a concert at the Masonic Temple. They’re wearing matching t-shirts of some underground Canadian indie band. Tim’s pulling out his unbelievably white moves on this poor girl, but hey, they look like they’re having an awesome time. I find photos of them at an 80’s theme party, at a dance with tacky art class decorations in a rundown high school gym, and kissing on a dock, a stolen moment unnoticed by surrounding friends.

The last one is a tree. It takes me a minute to figure out what it is, but I find it. T+R in a heart with the Cupid arrow thing, carved into the trunk. T+R, Tim plus—this girl—equals love. I have to admit it’s sweet. I wish I’d thought of that. Maybe I’d still be in a relationship. It’s funny, I’d never taken him to be the romantic guy.

Okay, that’s a lie. He used to talk about her, his girlfriend, or ex now, I suppose, all the time. It’s nice to have a face to go with the person now. What was her name again? I’m sure he’s mentioned it before. I glance back to the photo; T+R. Renee? Rachel? I don’t have patience for this name game.

I had never met her, Tim’s not the type to parade his lady around, but I could tell that he was very much in love with her. I assume she felt the same way. Fifth grade, my ass. It was obviously a lot more serious than that. So why’d she lie about it?

Something about this isn't sitting right with me. I don't know if it's disappointment—maybe I sort of wanted to hook up or at least get to know her, but now that it's clear they have a history that runs deep, it's definitely not a territory I want to venture into. No way. Whatever, I think she hates me, anyway. I blame it on the jetlag.

“What the hell is taking you so long?” Uncle Eric comes into the room. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was MAKE A FUCKING COLLAGE DAY.” I shove the pictures back into the box. “Ohhh, I see. Snooping through Timothy’s things? I used to do that. Have you found the porn box yet?”

“What?” I sputter, caught off guard. “No—I mean yes—no, how do you know?”

“A man’s got to take care of himself.”

“No!” I block my ears. “Jesus, stop! I should not be having this conversation with you!” This is just way too much information. Information that I could live my life perfectly fine without ever knowing.

“Relax, kiddo. I’m joking. God, you really do need to get laid.” He laughs. “Well, up and at ‘em, princess. We out.”

“Hey, just so you know, it wasn’t funny.

“What are you talking about, I’m always funny.”

“If you insist. There’s a word for that, though: self-deception.”

“And there’s a word what you are. I think we both know what it is.”
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Okay, so the reason why I have so many short, filler-like chapters is because I would like upload more regularly and a lovely comment by a lovely reader encouraged me to set aside the math and type like there's no tomorrow. I thank those of you who are hanging in there and I promise something will actually happen in the next part. ALSO I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU GUYS THINK SO JUST LEAVE A COMMENT. Kay? :)