Arts & Culture

The Price of Warmth Pt. 1

By Cedric McLeod

I sat in the breezy tomb of the embrasure.nThe autumn grass to my left was middle-aged, unashamed of its telltale streaks. To my right was a window I was tempted to sit in, but the rust was sure to stain my clothing. Waves pounded the stone wall, shaking the whole structure. I had one leg dangling down over the edge towards the grass, my back up against the sucking cold of the granite wall. The other leg was outstretched and my leather boots struck a stark contrast with my cotton blue jeans. A cap on my head kept my dark, tousled locks under control. The cap didn’t stop the young white women that walked past from huddling close to each other when they saw my face. I was used to that. Ignoring them, I brought the turquoise sweatshirt I was wearing a bit closer to my body. It was a size or two smaller, not meant for my bulky frame. I hadn’t bought it with money.

It wasn’t necessarily a gift either. I hadn’t stolen it. It was Ezra’s; his mother had handed out his clothing and I’d grabbed it up, promising to fit into it sometime soon. After a while, I clambered down from the edge, grabbing the olive green backpack that had loyally served me for years. It was hardly worn, save one small seam towards the top. I’d need to repair that. I believed in quality things and maintaining what you owned. Throw-away culture was for people like my grandparents, who balked at the idea I was some version of queer. My legs were stiff with cold as I walked, as if I’d swapped legs with a newborn foal.

He was gone.

The thought hit me in the chest, threatening to squeeze tears out of my mossy brown eyes. I cleared my throat and trudged up to a set of rickety, waterlogged stairs. They swayed with every step I took, but I made it to the top. Almost heading to the left, I stopped halfway through a stride and continued forward to some crumbling concrete steps. One of the women from earlier was sitting on a bench to the left and she didn’t need to see my mixed-race-self experiencing emotions. She was wrapped up in her
phone and the view. I descended out of sight.

By this point, I felt like I needed a shower. Not only because I’d worked up a sweat, but for the privacy. It was the one place I could grieve in peace. I woke up one morning to his brother texting me that he was gone. I thought he was pulling my leg. I tried messaging Ezra, but nothing. For hours. Days passed and his brother posted a video of Ezra laying very still, his brother looking at tattoos, documenting them. I half expected Ezra to sit up and grin for the camera. I wanted it with every fiber of my being. All the movement I saw from that body, just laying there on that metal table, was a limp wrist turning a hand
outward as his brother turned an arm over to look at the tattoos that graced a forearm. They barely seemed to belong to him now. He loved to dress up, to be decorated,
adorned. I would have been sending him a text soon, “Hey buddy, it’s almost Halloween. What are you going to dress up as?”

The last time I saw him, he had hugged me goodnight. I felt the breeze fade away
and warmth flooded back into my legs as I reached the ground. This was an isolated part of the fort, rusted chains bound iron doors that were either rusted shut or askew at the hinges. If you looked inside, you might only see darkness until your eyes adjusted. Some chains were newer than others, but the doors all seemed to be the same age. We had plans to hang out, we were going to go to Canada, I could always text him anything. I felt like those plans were now locked away forever.

He was shorter than me, with dark locks like mine and glasses that framed his
smiling eyes. I’d met him at a bar on our favourite holiday, Halloween. I was dressed
as a pirate with materials I’d only barely found, released early from work due to a slow night. He was in blue scrubs, tipsy, but not that it affected the conversation. I was immediately drawn to him, he was like an old friend. The music was loud, I was with
my girlfriend and my buddy, Even. They had both gotten the night off and I was lucky to be out on the town with everyone. We played darts, then pool, and I ordered a pitcher of beer for the four of us. He had been with a group of people that left, and he took a while to notice. There was a break in the game as we finished and he excused himself outside. The group had gone out to smoke, and that was the last time I would’ve seen him, had we not exchanged info.
I trekked past the fort and onwards to school. Dead leaves fluttered to the ground, painting the ground with yellows and reds. No signs of life rustled about here, not that I could see, anyways. I was far too warm and I wanted to rest, but there were no benches here. The sky grew darker with heaps of puffed slate slowly building in the distance. I
had a lump in my throat. I’d tried to quench it before, but it wasn’t brought on by thirst.
I ascended the next hill, step by step.

As I did, I could see islands sitting in pools of fog out in the distance. They looked like battleships. My cheeks felt hot and puffy. I’d met his mother at his funeral. I’d given her a timid hug and told both his parents that I hoped I’d become half the man he was. His mother had wiped tears from her eyes and his father would later clap me on the back as he asked me about my plan for life. His father is taller than me, but exudes a warm energy that made me trust him. I’d talked about how I was on my way to be an accountant. Then, the wasps came. To Be Continued

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Illustration by Morgan Dyer


Categories: Arts & Culture

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