Winter Goals

The bright, cold winters. Everything not just illuminated but made glowing. In the sun, in the clear blue, everything below a squinting mix of white and green and brown. Blue shadows, and cold air breathing.

We dressed appropriately and so the cold did not matter. It was winter, in Canada. As factual as your nose. The winter months come and your nose runs and before you know it it’s over. You don’t even blink and soon it’s over, so fast.

We were young, around age 10. Myself and my best friend and another boy whose name I don’t recall. Someone my friend was closer to and whom I tried to connect with but never quite could. All I remember his big hockey posters in his bedroom. One of Brett Hull, with his distinct blonde hair and strong nose, like Owen Hart. An image, a figure as big as anything, this St. Louis player. That’s how I defined this friend-by-association, by hockey. He was into hockey, a fan and a player. And I was neither. I thought I liked watching it, but never really got it. And because it was all this other boy seemed to be about I could never quite connect. He seemed nice, though.

And so the three of us set out to play some hockey one day. One cold, bright, blue skied and sparkling day we tromped out to the treeline out away from my friend’s acreage home, where a simple pond lay frozen in what was likely January. Skates already tied tight around our ankles – they always chafed and hurt mine. We carried sticks and pads and we didn’t mind the cold. We simply dressed for the occasion.

We stood surrounded at a distance by the big green trees, and we found our footing. We circled and explored and laughed and joked about whatever amuses boys at 10. I half-listened, admiring the ice. Powdered and scratched up and endlessly black underneath. Always wondering if the fish underneath were dead or asleep and how that would even work. We moved and angled and determined our space. Always wary of the softball-size lump of ice somehow formed just off to the edge, swollen on the flat surface. Cold and solid and ready to send you falling only to get back up again.

It was just three of us, which poses a question and just as quickly answers it: two play against each other while the third stands as goalie. The trouble was, we couldn’t decide. I’m not sure I even wanted to play at all, so much as wanted to be with my friends there. But I certainly didn’t want to be goalie. For whatever reason, I objected. I don’t even remember if we had was a proper hockey net or just two sticks propped up in the snowy bank. All I know is, before I knew it, I was face down and crying.

They held me down and I was crying. They’d decided that I was the goalie. They made that decision. For all my resistance, whatever it was based on, they wouldn’t have it. They insisted that I was the goalie. And the goalie had to wear the goalie pads. The big loaves of material you strap around your legs, they strapped around mine. I used to think goalies were cool because of their outfits. They looked like superheroes, or supervillains depending on colours. But I never wanted to be one. Not on that day.

But they held me down, these boys who claimed to be my friends. They held me down and strapped on the goalie pads while I wailed like I was in pain. I wailed and cried not in a tantrum, but in confusion. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Why I was being made to do this. What I’d done wrong, to deserve to be held down on the ice and the packed snow like this. Why my friends would do this. Why they wouldn’t listen. Why they didn’t care.

I don’t think we even played in the end.

I vaguely remember going back to my friend’s home, alone, eyes bleary and nose running but not from the cold. And my friend’s mother was there. I think I told her what happened. But I don’t remember for sure. I don’t recall support, or consequences, or apologies. My memory just ends there.

Before I knew it, I’m sure, the winter was over.

© 2016 Andrew Hall Writes

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