Winter Addict by Tom Halford

            I pressed my hands and face into the cold of the window as we drove away. 

            “Farewell,” I whispered to my sweet powder. 

             How demeaning. To be hurled into the car by Theresa, my beloved beauty. Only moments ago, I was a veritable God of winter, careening effortlessly through the snow. I needed no protection. I was terrifying, infinite, invincible.

            To go from that feeling to having my bare buttocks popsickled to a faux leather seat, Theresa leering at me like I was a deranged winter wolf—that was a wound to my soul.      Theresa had found out what I had been up to—streaking through the cross-country ski trails—and I could tell she was going to explode with all of the heat and passion of a woman scorned. 

            Theresa, sweet fiery Theresa, with her constant desire to go down south, to a sun scorched island, yearning to cook her meaty limbs on some volcanic beach, to bake her sultry body in a hotel room where inferior, unacceptable, infuriating air conditioning whirred like a dying robot in a dystopian hellhole.

            She had wrapped me in one of her cop blankets and escorted me inside, locking me in our bedroom. I could smell the steam emanating from a bath, the swirling intoxication of her flowered soaps. 

            After some time had passed, I heard my wife stomp down the hallway. She opened the door, her hair slicked back, her purple robe pulled tight, and I felt an overwhelming urge to be warmed by her.       

            She pointed a finger in my face. “Don’t make me compete with that tramp winter. You hear me? I will not compete with that icy harlot. Are we understood?”

            I nodded.

     “I’ll get a truck full of road salt and dump it everywhere you goes,” she threatened. 

            I nodded again.

  “No more winter,” she said, pulling me close against her, and I wanted all of her heat,

“you’re addicted to the cold. I’ll be your antidote.”

 And she was right. How I wanted her to warm me, how I wanted to be inside the sweet sauna of her body.

            Once I was able to accept that I was indeed addicted to the cold, I began the long, painful process of recovery. In my mind, there is a clear choice that the addict needs to make once they have accepted that they are indeed an addict: moderation or abstinence. 

            In the beginning, I chose abstinence, and I was earnest in my endeavors to kick my winter habit. I began by shutting all of the blinds and curtains in our house. Then I politely asked Theresa to empty the ice-cube trays. Before she did so, I went to our bedroom and played Bach on blast so as to avoid hearing the scintillating, titillating clink, clank crackling of cold, hard ice under the swollen throbbing thrust of H2O. 

            For months, whenever I went outside, I made certain that I was fully covered from head to toe. It was absolutely essential that no part of my skin felt the cool, pleasing breath of winter. Theresa would go out and warm the car up. Sometimes she would smoke a cigarette with the windows rolled up to make the interior delightfully masochistic for me, the smoke burning my nostrils, eyes, and esophagus in a puzzling arousing inversion of my desperate, unruly winter perversion. 

  For a time, I had mastered all of my triggers, and I was in control of my icy addiction.

However, that changed one fateful evening when we went over to our neighbours, Carl and

Krissy, for dinner and drinks. To cross the street, I encased myself in plastic wrap and had Theresa poke a hole over my mouth and nostrils. Then I dawned a snowsuit with a hoodie, stepped into thick boots, and punched on leather mitts. With my eyes squeezed shut, I darted across the street screaming as I ran. 

            Theresa and I ducked into the bathroom, and she unspooled me from my plastic cocoon, pinching my pink skin with each delightful turn. Carefully, she rolled the wrap together so that we could use it later on. 

            The evening social started out innocently enough with room temperature red wine and a beef tartar. In terms of cuisine, Krissy seemed hyper-sensitive toward my hatred of heat and my keen craving for the cold, grasping tepidly towards the gourmet but only creating what I would refer to as a lukewarm foody fiasco.

            Theresa began detailing her recent obsession with knitting, telling Krissy and Carl how it was the first thing she went for when she woke up and the last thing she thought about before sleep.

            I held up my feet, swathed in newly knitted socks, and I said, “It has been a boon to my affliction. Skadi the show-shoe goddess of old Norse legends sings out to me like a hypothermic siren, and only these knitted miscellanies ail my aching skin.”

            Carl laughed at me, “You’ve gone shack happy.”

    “I’ll tell you what it is,” said Theresa, “he’s been reading those old books of poetry.

Wordsworth this. Keats that. He’s like a hot air balloon of pretentiousness.” 

            In sheer delight, I repeated the phrase ‘hot air balloon of pretentiousness’. I savoured each icy syllable like an ice cold chardonnay. My wife is a woman who secretly delights in language.

            Carl had left the room just as I had began to savour Theresa’s scrumptious metaphor, and he had returned with four glasses of whisky. Such a gesture would have normally been welcome, but Carl had made the catastrophic oversight of dropping two cubes of ice into each glass. I had heard him coming from the hallway—the overpoweringly erotic clink clank clunk of ice on glass, and I clenched the sofa cushion with my butt cheeks.

            “You nerds need a drink,” announced Carl.

            However, as soon as he finished his idiotic announcement, I was over each glass, greedily digging my hands into the whisky and fisting the ice into my mouth, obliterating it into a million joyful shards, groaning and humming and howling with the intense pleasure of the addict filling each hollow space that his urges had dug into his soul.

            Of course the ice was only an appetizer. I had awoken my winter wolf, and I was without hope of moderation. Stripping off all of my dear Theresa’s knitted clothing, I rushed to Carl and Krissy’s freezer, tearing open a bag of frozen peas, pouring them over me like an emerald shower from heaven. I rubbed mint chocolate chip ice cream against my nipples. I spanked my buttocks with an icy t-bone steak. And oh deep and profound relief, oh wild, unspeakable pleasure at the moment when a cylinder of concentrated OJ met my sweltering nether regions! 

            Frozen delight after frozen delight crashing against my hungry skin, I heard Theresa screaming at me, terrified at what I might do to myself. And yet, even though I could hear her voice, I could not understand her words. I was beyond the human. I was a frenzy of uncontrollable, animal desire.

            I’m uncertain of how much time had passed between that moment and when I realized I was burrowed into a snow bank, completely nude, Carl and Krissy dragging me out of the intoxicatingly invigorating white powder. 

            That time in between is lost to me forever. I am amazed that I was able to return from it. Theresa has always threatened that if I die in the throws of my ice addiction that she would cremate me as punishment. I cannot tolerate the thought.

            I often try to trace it all back, to where my addiction grew from a harmless pup into a vicious waiting wolf under my bed. 

            I believe it began with a simple bowl of strawberry ice cream on a scalding hot day. Theresa and I were on the back deck, and I had not been feeling well, one of those summer colds where my throat felt like someone had run sharp fingernails along my esophagus. The pink ice cream melted softly in my mouth, and melting softly, it slid sweetly down, the gentle chill like a balm to my ailing body. From the ice cream, I began to experiment with ice water, then ice cold showers, then baths with trays of ice cubes dumped inside. From that point, I fell further and further down the frigid spiral of my addiction.

            I had to accept that in my Herculean struggles toward recovery, abstinence was perhaps a dangerous choice. I would simply have to live with my addiction, manage it while it sat waiting like a sharp-toothed, starving wolf under my bed. Every so often, toss it a scrap of meat, just enough to keep it tame and satisfied—perhaps let the icy, clean tap water run for a few extra minutes onto my aching hands, or if I was really hurting for the cold, grab a handful of snow and rub it into my armpits—because if I fed it nothing, then it would demand to be fed. It would dart out from under the bed and tear off my flesh one chunk after another until there was nothing left but my winter white bones. And yet. How beautifully the cold could reach me then.