MONDAY: The Intimacies of Winter


Copyright is held by the author.

THE WORST snowstorm in 20 years had locked us in. After two days I wanted to kill my roommate Marty. Somehow we had endured more than two years of Covid nonsense without losing our minds or coming to blows, but a freak storm had quickly pushed us to the brink. We’re out of weed and even with ample wine and bourbon, the jones had turned us into lunatics.

“You should flush the fucking toilet now and then, bro.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“Just flush the toilet. Marty, the fuck’s wrong with you? Is this a new kink or something?”

“We gonna start this right now, man? Because it won’t finish well for you if we do.”

This was Marty’s agro-kabuki act. He knew I could kick his ass. I’d known him since college. Lots of ups and downs between us but he had saved my life once — when he found me in our apartment comatose on opioids, called the ambulance and kept me from going under; and after my stint in hospital he signed me into rehab and paid for it. I owed him my life but he never let me forget it.

The television broadcast the dispiriting news. City plow trucks overwhelmed. Power out in most sectors. People stranded left and right. Might as well put on your cable-knit sweaters and long johns and get cozy for a few days, folks. You could risk life and limb out in the white wastes, the swells, the drifts.

I went into my bedroom and shut the door so that I couldn’t hear Marty breathing as even it had become insufferable. Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space sat on my nightstand. I turned to a page that referred to the cozy intimacy of winter. I felt a chill and covered myself with a throw my mother had knitted for me years ago. I slept and dreamt of my mother. She was scolding me for being useless.

Shrill whistling awoke me—the kettle. I sprang out of bed like the Tin Man, my joints in need of lubrication, my heart absent from efforts to fully regain consciousness and loosen up my limbs. I could’ve returned to bed and slept the next few days through, and probably should have.

“You want tea?” Marty asked. I’d been a coffee drinker since childhood, but periodically drank tea with him though I didn’t enjoy it. We drank it in the living room gazing out the bay window onto the Arctic landscaping the storm had crafted.  

“Found a chunk of hash,” Marty announced.

“You lie,” I said, my heart racing, my candle of hope flickering.

Marty held up the chunk. “In the key pocket of my dirty Levis.”

And I thought, Marty is a lifesaver.

We smoked the hash in an apple pipe he quickly fashioned. After several blasts my head spun. Had to lie down. Threw myself on my bed and fell one thousand feet into a foamy black whirlpool. I shut my eyes: the entire universe spun. I burst into a cold sweat and fled to the can where I puked up my soul.

Next day, a warm front invaded, and melted all the snow in vast puddles and pools. To think certain mouth-breathers still argued that climate change was a hoax.

Marty and I tangled over coffee. “Don’t know what your problem is,” he lamented, his unshaven face a mass of creases and tufts. “I’m just sitting here, man. You know, living.”

“Maybe that’s the problem, right?”

“Maybe this weather’s a problem. Maybe that’s why you’re so cranky, bro.”

A real mess out there. We wouldn’t be scoring weed anytime soon. At 10 that morning I opened a bottle of Maker’s Mark that looked lonely. I poured a shot and drank it. A lovely bubble of warmth burst in my chest — my cheeks and eyebrows lifted.

“Might as well join you,” Marty said, grabbing a lowball glass from the cupboard. “You want ice?”

“We need more ice?”

Marty chuckled. First time since the storm he’d expressed even an iota of levity.

We drank and laughed all afternoon. Rain fell, further liquifying the landscape. By dusk everything felt liquid. By nightfall northern winds swooped in and turned all that liquid into fucking ice. The Maker’s Mark bottle stood nearly empty on the kitchen table. Marty leaned against the table with his head in his hands. I could barely sit in my chair. Engines revved and clanked outside as vehicles tried to navigate the mess.

“You know,” Marty slurred, “I don’t like you anymore, man.”

I laughed. “You think I like you?”

Marty laughed and swayed. Phlegm whitened his mouth corners and his eyes looked like slits. He slammed his hand on the table and shot to his feet.

“Right now — me and you right now!” he shouted, fists cocked. “I’ll take you, man. I’ll fucking take you.”

Marty swung at my face, but he was so drunk he missed and almost threw out his shoulder. I countered with a short right to his chin. Didn’t hit him hard, but he went down like he’d been shot. When he came to, he didn’t recall what had happened and sat on the floor rubbing his chin and slow-blinking.

“You passed out, Marty,” I said, holding back laughter. “I gave you mouth-to-mouth and you’re OK now. Call us even.”

“Wha — what?” Drunk and confused, he stumbled to the bathroom. Sounds of retching ensued.

I looked out the window and ice and moonlight encased everything. Lethal bluish icicles hung from telephone poles and eavestroughs and tree-branches. It was quite beautiful.

Next morning I awoke with a black iron anvil on my head. I contemplated suicide briefly, then rose. Marty sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee, kneading his right temple and staring out the window.

“It’s all melting again,” he said. “Maybe we’ll be able to finally get out tomorrow. You got any aspirin, bro.”

I nodded. We both needed aspirin.


Image of Salvatore Difalco

Sicilian Canadian poet and short story writer Salvatore Difalco currently resides in Toronto. Recent work appears in Third Wednesday, Cafe Irreal and Spinozablue.

1 comment
  1. Maker’s was my go-to before I stopped drinking… too many lost days when it felt good to just stare out at the snow. I could relate.

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