Teri Vlassopoulos

Every Kiss a War Cover Kissing Booth

Lake Simcoe in February

By Teri Vlassopoulos

M. and I on Lake Simcoe in February, me afraid to walk on it even though there are cars in the distance, pickup trucks on the lake as if it’s the most natural thing, as if there’s nothing unusual about continuing to press on the gas once you’ve crossed that threshold from shore to water. Everything is bright and sprawling, just dots of ice fishing huts breaking up the whiteness. Men huddled over their fishing holes. The ice is eight, maybe ten feet deep. The snow is settled on top but occasionally a section of it will be blown away and I can see the rough ice below and I wish it was clear but it’s black and grey, or maybe it’s the lake water that’s black and grey and that’s what reflecting through, but there are fish down there too, bumping their heads up against the ice, gliding through the coldest temperatures and I wish I could see them instead.

M. laughs at the way I’m shuffling, how tentative I am, how I’m looking down, not up. Don’t be so scared, he says. But there are cracks, I say and point. He jumps up and down like on a trampoline. It’s safe. We’ve known each other two weeks. There is a lot we don’t know about each other. I want to trust him.

A man and his daughter are fishing near us. The man nods hello, but the girl is focused on the hole in the ice, a small black circle in the endless whiteness of the lake, a rim of slushy grey around it. She’s jiggling her line and while we’re watching, reels it up and there’s a wriggling, silvery fish on the other end of it. She’s so proud and her father’s proud and M. and I are proud too and we clap for her, although the sound is muted since we’re wearing gloves.

We walk more until we realize how far we’ve strayed from where we’ve started and turn back. Because we are padded in coats, sweaters, layers, our bodies bounce away unless we hold on tight. The wind is now against us, so we don’t talk, we burrow our faces into our scarves and make our way back to shore and I’m shuffling again, looking down, but it’s not because I’m scared.

M. says something to me, but I don’t quite understand him. I move even closer, put my arm through his. This is nice, I say, but I can tell he doesn’t hear me either. The wind has taken my words and shot them back towards the middle of the lake. I imagine us in a warmer, greener place. I wonder if we’ll know each other in the summer, what it will be like for our bare skin to brush against each other without having to peel away layers first. But maybe we don’t have to wait until then? Maybe when we reach shore, get back to his car, we can keep driving. South, south, cross the border, go somewhere warm and green. Kentucky? We can play it by ear, let the kilometres fall away, leave this winter and see what it’s like, what we’re like, when the weather is easier, when we don’t huddle together for the necessity of warmth but because it’s all we want to do.

Teri Vlassopoulos lives and writes in Toronto. She has published one collection of short stories, Bats or Swallows (Invisible Publishing) and is a columnist at bookslut.com. She likes road trips.