Temperature: -8.5 degrees Celsius (afternoon) and -16.3 (evening)
Feels Like: -14 degrees Celsius (afternoon) and -24 (evening)
Wind: WSW 13 km/hr (afternoon) and ESE 12 km/hr (evening)
In the darkness, you feel the cool air brushing your face. Initially, it’s refreshing, but after hours outside numbness seeps into your limbs. You hair frosts over and a perpetual drip runs from your nose. You wouldn’t say that you’re cold because the only way to realize that is to warm up. Only then, as your skin and muscles increase in temperature, do you feel the deep, bone-aching chill that you won’t be able to shake for some time. But then, that is only if you have the opportunity to warm up.
Tonight I met Louie. He stood on the periphery of a crowd, not quite breaching its edges. He moved with an uncertain gait as if he couldn’t make up his mind to be here or gone. Twice, he came up close to the crowd before disappearing. Eventually, he shuffled over to where I was and he began to talk. His first words were hard to hear.
“You only got one life. And mine is over,” he said while looking just above my head.
I didn’t have any life-changing words of inspiration; they would have felt disingenuous anyway. I couldn’t pretend to know him or his hardships. So I listened. When he spoke, it felt like he needed confirmation of his existence, as if he had been wandering on for too long amongst people who didn’t even see him.
His nose drizzled into the moustache above his lip and he finally looked into my eyes. “Nobody cares. When I’m gone, no one will even know. His eyes were serious and flat and I could feel the gap between us. “I don’t want it to be like that, ya know.”
I nodded. I still didn’t say much, but then I didn’t need to.
His snow pants were the overall type. A small label at his chest read -50. He wore a black baseball cap, leaving his ears exposed and carried a pair of dirty white gloves. He had just turned 39.
“I’m scared. I’m so scared,” he said and then began to cry. “I know what I need to do. I need to stop being drunk.”
I nodded again, but only because I didn’t really know what he needed. Perhaps it was a warm bed or a home or a program. Perhaps it was easy to say “I need to stop being drunk” but is harder to say what that really means.
I told him my name and I listened. He talked of the west coast of Hudson’s Bay where he was a fisherman and hunter. And he smiled. I could feel the air between us growing lighter. The tide is every 6 hours – high tide and low tide.
He leans over, his shoulders hunching as his hands mimic the size and shape of the fish. I could see it moving between his hands. He laughed. “I know everything about it,” he says. His eyes change as he stares into mine. He’s happy, caught in the memories and I don’t really believe that he’s here anymore. Rather, he is there with the arctic char and his family and his roots and his life.
But then it’s time to go and he says, “I get scared, too.”
He repeats it again and again.
“I need help.”
Time: 2:30 pm – 3:55 pm plus 32 minutes of miscellaneous walking time
Today’s Minutes: 117
Total Challenge Minutes: 760/3720
Ahead/Behind: -80 minutes