I sat in the mountain town with the ice on the windows until my nose froze up and my snot looked like emerald crystals. It took eighteen years, but that letter came like I knew it would. It took eighteen years for me to get over the mountain for one night in the city, but I got there like I knew I would.
There was ice in the city as well. A little. It was on the conifers planted at eighteen foot intervals along Central, and I used them as a speedometer in my rusted Plymouth. Not as much ice though. When I got into the centre, the ice was nowhere to be seen.
I waited on the street he told me about. I could see his reason for rapture; I could see that just going out for cigarettes held no sway over this street. A hundred tiny shreds of yesterday’s newspaper blustered like confetti as long white buses streaked around the streets, dripping oil and picking up huddled groups of passengers, battened down with fur and galoshes.
I sat outside the graveyard, and looked at the café where my mother used to work when he met her. He used to leave a chessboard on the pink linen tabletop with a game in play. When he came back the next morning, he’d carry on. When he lost, after six weeks of one move a day, he asked who had beaten him. Cappucinos and chess were what he loved her for.
The letter said to catch the last bus. He lived on every bus route. There was no ice on any of them. I found the wooden door in the red brick tenement house, and walked into the grey hallway as dawn began to peer through the eastern windowframe. I sat at the bottom of the stairs and waited for him to come back with cigarettes.