Van Morrison is in my head singing…."gotta make it through January, gotta make it through February," and I pine for summer and the stirring of a warm western breeze.
I was happy to see Brian this morning. I hadn’t seen him for a long time. He said he spent a bit of time in jail…something to do with refusing to stay out of the subway and off the LRT. He likes riding the LRT. But he is back panhandling at Starbucks and things seem right again. (But how could they be for Brian?) He was glad of today’s slight moderation in temperature, and added that he was happy he lived here in Canada, away from the "crazy weather." I agreed. Then he said, "But February is coming and that’s always the coldest."
I recall a very cold mid-winter day years ago, so cold that my truck refused to completely warm up. A mile out of the city stood a woman, her hand weakly raised in a hitch-hikers signal. I slowed and stopped beside her. She seemed warm enough in a giant overcoat and scarf and Kodiak boots. She opened the door, laboriously it seemed, and she didn’t bother to look at me. She had high prominent cheek bones, a round face and deep watery eyes. She shut the door behind her we started off toward the city.
She said, "I had a dream about you." I caught my breath. "I know you, your name is Bruno," she added. I smelled the sour odour of disinfectant. I noticed she had no gloves on and in one hand she gripped a wad of tissue which she would hold up to her nose and mouth every few moments. She had soaked the tissue with Lysol. I remember hearing that Lysol when inhaled can make you feel warm. She never felt her hands freezing.
I stopped across from a Chinese café. This is where she was determined to get out. I wondered if I should just drive her to an intox centre, the Spady perhaps. Instead I gave her money for a meal and then gave her orders to throw away the Lysol and make sure to get something to eat. She offered a sexual favour for the money. I said no and tried to hurry her out of the truck. I felt shame, shame for me, shame for her. I said a quick prayer for her and drove off. She could have been any age between 20 and 50. I felt nauseous and helpless. I didn’t ask her her name, something I almost always do. It was the cold, I reasoned.