‘Letting the cold out’

I used to think it was strange I never felt homesick. I’d uprooted myself from the freezing nowhere of Cormorant, Manitoba to an apartment in San Diego that belonged to a man I’d never met. If I’d told them, nobody would have been surprised. Minus twenty, people would gasp. You’ll never go back now. Who’d leave a place like this?

The reason I came let me stay. He’d be rough with me, then fall asleep. He snored all night and left cash on the kitchen table. For the first few weeks, I would leave home wearing far too many clothes, and have to carry them around all day. I ordered my coffee in a very soft voice, and when the wrong order arrived, I would drink it anyway, all the way to the bottom. When the phone rang, I would never pick up in time, and then I’d wonder who it might have been.

I applied for jobs as a teacher, a nanny, a make up artist, with half-hearted application letters and resumes listing all the ways I’d failed to finish anything. When I heard nothing back, I would say to myself, see, just like always. 

Sadness was mostly something I did to myself, and even when I didn’t it would seek me out, in a stranger’s cold gaze in the parking lot, a trip up the steps in front of a crowd, gum stuck to the sole of my shoe.

In the general store, I stood in the freezer aisle, the doors open in front of me. I was at home in the cold, and in this hot, relentlessly cheerful city, this was the closest I could get. Of course I wasn’t homesick, I realised. I had never left. Won’t you close them doors, lady, a wrinkled up gramma croaked from behind my shoulder. You’re letting all the cold out.