It’s early morning. The Frosted Flakes have grown soggy. I’m stuck staring at one of the half-submerged flakes, half-crispy, half-mushy. Tap tap tap the spoon against the ceramic bowl; it seems to help shake off the sleep that refuses to lift from the top of my head. It feels fuzzy and numb. Boredom hangover. It’s pitch black outside. Dead winter. We have not seen the sun in weeks. Stars stare at me through the window. Wind screams urgently, shaking the house. Wind sings but carries an axe instead of a note.
A dog howls. Five more follow suit. I put on my kamiik and kick the door open because it has frozen shut. School has not been cancelled: it’s not cold enough outside. It has to be at least minus fifty with the wind chill to merit a day off. The roads are frozen solid; they will stay that way until May or June.
The permafrost is living under everything, slowing time and preserving what would normally rot. Kamiit help feet deftly navigate the slip of the ice, the crunch of the snow, and the depths of the drifts. The sealskin is warm, but I have lost the blood my feet carry. The Cold has scared the blood out of my toes. Our feet have built-in memory of which tendons to curl to prevent falling on all different kinds of ice. The Snow would sometimes slice the surface of the ice in half with a drift and try to trick us into falling. The Snow could crunch underfoot or chase you loosely. The Snow could hold your whole body weight or decide to deceive you and plunge you into the down underneath.
Snow is fickle. Snow picks itself up and goes wherever Wind tells it to. One element controls the other in a cyclical oblivion. Weather is just the earth’s breaths. Wind is the cold bearer and the death bringer. Streetlights hold halos of swirling snow; rainbows appear if you look at the streetlights and squint. My footsteps the only sound of any human being, I continue the hollow morning walk to school.
Grade eight. Ugh. I have another giant cold sore on my chin. It’s ten miles wide and oozing. I do my best to disguise it with my scarf and steel my ego for the taunting that I am about to receive. “Soresees” is the name that gets appointed to the person suffering from a cold sore for the entirety of its duration. This name can also be applied to chicken pox, eczema, bed-bug bites, zits, or any other skin ailment. The series of nicknames allotted to the students in our school was never kind but was often so amusing that we were happy to carry the burden when it was our turn. I silently thank the universe that I will never be branded “Nibble-a-cock” like my friend Casper Noviligak because she gave a blowjob to that hotdog on a dare last Thursday.
It took me fifteen minutes to pull these jeans on this morning. They are so tight that it hurts to breathe. Sometimes, I have to use a coat hanger to get the zipper up. The tighter the jeans the better, and neon is in; neon leg warmers, neon tights, neon shirts, neon banana clips. We pile our hair as high as it will go, even though the wind destroys our hairdos to the point that every time we come in from outside, the girls’ bathroom is a haze of Final Net. We sport Chip & Pepper heat-sensitive, colour-changing muscle shirts (leaving us hiding our fluorescent-orange armpits after gym) and pair them with acid-washed jeans and light-blue eyeshadow. AC/DC. Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap.
The frosted-pink lip gloss clashed with my cold sore, so I didn’t wear it today. My lips are cracked and chapped, and my hair is flying with static electricity and keeps getting into my cold sore. Winter is dry. Like, zero humidity. The cold holds moisture hostage. The boys scuff their socks on the carpet and shock the girls with pointed fingers and malicious glee. I hate it.
I want to be the size of an ant, or just disappear. This year everyone got boobs except me. Every morning brings the measuring tape to the mirror in the hopes of the miracle of being suddenly blessed with tits, forever ending the reign of my nickname: Golf Balls. In lieu of breasts, I arrange sheets of toilet paper to make a home nest in my brassiere. The indignities we suffer as children will only grow larger as we get older, so we are told. That seems impossible.
I get good grades in school without putting in much effort. I fail tests on purpose to avoid drawing too much ire from the popular girls, who seemed to think that accomplishing anything scholastically made you vain. School is scary and awkward; I guess it’s supposed to be. Sitting still for that long is impossible. My ass is numb. Who made this system? It feels like a slow torture watching the second hand tick by, watching the flakes of dandruff fly around the teacher’s head when he stands in the light. How can someone be almost bald and still have dandruff? Getting old is so gross. Watching people slowly rot is unnerving. I listen to the children breathing and sighing. We steal glances at one another. Listening to pencils scratching, we yearn for movement. Listening to the wind howl in screaming freedom, we all feel muted.
Math class. The cute boy peeks up and smiles at me over his math book while holding hands under the table with the pretty girl. I’m aware that he is manipulating me, but I still die a little inside. His black hair is in a brush cut, and he smells a little mouldy, like his mom took too long to get the clothes into the dryer. He makes up for it with a searing confidence and sharp wit. Brightness. It shocks me every time he looks at me. He has already seen too much in life, and his natural propensity for cruelty coupled with the hormones coursing through his body has him playing girls against each other like bristling sled dogs. He still gets to taste them all. I’ve always hated this social display of jealousy, girls scratching each other’s eyes out for boys. If he leaves me alone, I can maintain my dignity, but I feel the pull of him in a place that is foreign to me. It is my first real crush. Our teacher is discussing physics.
I think about the equal and opposite reaction to the look the boy just gave me and blush furiously. His girlfriend notices. Shit! I’m in for it after school. Doors open and close, the books in the library call me with their musty elder smell. The clocks rotate. I get my head slammed into my locker at recess, and the school day is over. Thank fuck.