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  • Writer's pictureWellington Lambert


Speed bump

He is standing on the trail. The squeak squeak squeak of hard rubber on soft snow made him turn around. He says something but the loud shuffling sound of my skidoo suit overpowers his voice. As I get closer, I recognize the huge mutton chops on the side of his face. I know him from school. He is one of the few guys at school that will talk to me. He just moved here; he doesn’t know I’m toxic.

As I get closer to him, I can see he is not wearing a tuque or mitts, or skidoo boots. Just a suede jacket with fringes and boots that look more like leather socks. He looks underdressed and I feel over dressed, I must have misinterpreted the dress code for -40.



We speak teenage kid code. Words are all about tone, not content.

We start to walk together. We ignore the fact that both of us should be in school. That is how we know each other. A brief encounter while lining up in gym class, alphabetically. We connected through the first letter of our last name.

He tells me he doesn’t go to school when the sun shines. His people believe being with nature provides all the education you need. He laughs and pulls out a joint. He tells me it’s his peace pipe. We laugh and get stoned.

There is a long silence filled with walking sounds and a bit of wind that blows the loose snow. He starts to talk about his foster home, his real home. A bunch of girls forcing him to have sex in a tent. His information is scattered and feels detached from any emotion. We laugh about the sex thing but I can’t tell if he thinks its funny or we are just really stoned.

I tell him I am on a walkabout…more laughter. I saw this movie, I tell him, about a couple of kids lost in the Australian outback. The more I try to give details about the movie the more I feel confused about why I’m here. Finally, I tell him I am trying to find myself, like that explains everything.

We keep walking and stop talking.

The trees look hard and angry, naked, hiding their soul deep underground. I like to think their roots are safe, happy, but I know emotions are reserved for those who can afford to feel them.

“Did you find it?” My mutton chopped friend breaks the silence.

“Find what?” I’m still lost in the roots.


He didn’t laugh, his tone told me his curiosity was genuine. I paused, wanting to make a joke to weaken his interest. I am not comfortable with someone putting the spotlight on my soul.

“No.” I answer.

The day starts to darken inside my head. I will never find myself. I’m chasing something that doesn’t want to be found.

“Are you hungry?” he asks me, then pulls a Bar Six out of his pocket and splits it.

He breaks off two pieces to give me and I tell him that six divides in half real easy. He laughs and says “What did you bring?”

I pull a large chunk of hash from my pocket and show it to him. “This.”

“Are you trying to find yourself or lose yourself?”

“Both.” I answer while retrieving a pack of rolling papers and some cigarettes to gut.

We sit in a makeshift hut that was built for the cross-country skiers to rest in. No one uses it, who wants to sit down in the cold?

“Where you going to smoke all this?” he asks me while holding his breath and passing my badly wrapped hash joint to me.

“No, maybe.” I take a drag and start to let the panic settle in. I don’t really know this guy. We are alone and isolated in the bush. I am starting to nurture fantasies of him murdering me and throwing me into the river. I imagine still being alive as the freezing water pulls me under. Would it eventually feel good as I slip away?

“What’s wrong?” I hear his voice, it sounds far away, I am slipping further into myself. This is the opposite of what I wanted to achieve today. “Don’t freak out, just relax, you’re safe.” I still hear his voice but this time I can connect. He’s familiar with my condition.

“Nothing’s wrong.” I answer, feeling my voice detached from my body.

“Don’t run away from the panic, embrace it.” He says…is he God? Is he real?

“Ok.” I take a deep breath and watch the cold air decorate the heat from my insides, white.

“When my dad would beat me,” he’s still talking, I need to focus on his words, “he would cry after,” he takes another drag, burning his fingers on the stub and releasing it into the snow. I stare at the last ember, watching it fight. “I felt bad for making him angry, then making him sad.” He laughs, “that’s fucked up.”

We both stare at the wood on the other side of the hut, searching for answers.

“My Dad hates me,” I finally speak, “but he would never hit me.”

“My Dad loves me.” He answers.

“How do you know?” I ask, wondering what that feels like.

“I just know.”

I see other guys with their dads and wonder how they know, if they know. It must be a secret language.

“What about your mom?” I ask him, hoping for a happier ending.

“She’s dead.”

I can feel time being sucked out of the air. This moment sits still. The wind picks up the lose snow on the ice crusted surface creating a scraping sound. He starts to roll the last bit of my hash chunk.

“How?” there is something wrong with me. I can’t not ask.

“Speed bump.” He drops a small bit of hash and bends down to pick it out of the snow, blowing on it and putting it onto the rolling paper.

I wait for him to expand on his answer. I know it’s probably a sad memory, a painful one, but I want every single detail. I want to see it, to experience it. Like I said, there is something wrong with me.

“In the summer the heat warms up the paved road.” He licks the loose roll and tries to stick it together. “She was at a bar.” He stops to keep rolling and I want to hit the joint out of his hand to get him to keep the story moving, stories are everything, I live in them. “At night it cools down.” He pulls his lighter out. “On her way home she laid down on the pavement to warm up and fell asleep.” He lights the joint.” I am less anxious to hear the ending, I think I know where this is going. “Someone ran over her.” He sucks and holds the smoke. “They call them speed bumps.” He blows the smoke out and laughs.

“Did she die right away?” I can’t believe I said that.

“I don’t fucking know…do you want to know what she was wearing?” he keeps laughing.

Actually, I do…I kind of do.

Eventually he stops laughing.

The quiet consumes us and the longer I remain silent the less I have to say.

“I have to go.” He finally says. He isn’t dressed in clothing that can protect him for long, not when he’s sitting still.

I want to follow him when he leaves the hut, but I just sit there. I can hear him walk away, the crunch of his soft souls on hard snow.

Then I wonder, just for a moment, if he was really here.

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