Lina Mezerreg | Art by Kelly Yeh
People say everyone leaves you, at one time or another. That no one stays
forever. They say that it’s the memories you have that are truly important.
Well if it’s memories that matter, then why do they mean nothing to you?
Remember all the promises we made, the pinky swears, the hearts crossed, that
one time we actually cut our palms with an ice shard and held our bloody hands
Remember when you said that I was stuck with you for the rest of time, that
we’d get out of this rabbit burrow town together, maybe even leave the state of
Minnesota, that we’d rule the hockey world, that we’d be the warriors of the frozen
lakes, the kings of the rinks?
Or remember when you promised that no matter what, you’d never be anything like
my family. You said that you would stay, no matter what, always together and never
I thought those promises meant something. I counted them like money, polished
them like diamonds, hung them with the stars. I never thought they’d stab me like a
But there’s one memory that hurts the most: the one where you didn’t say
Ainar’s last night was average in almost every way,the midnight February air as
cold as usual, the highway behind the lake as bright and noisy as always, the ice on
Carcass Point as thick and hazy as my aunt’s crystal ball.
Yet despite it’s mediocrity, that was the night the world went quiet.
He was already on the ice when I got there, skating loose circles around the
perimeter of the lake with his skates following a symphony that only we could hear.
His silhouette cut a sharp contrast against the street lights lining the highway on
the other side of the fence behind the lake.
Well lake is a generous word, it’s more of an oversized pond. Carcass point, we
all call it. Why?
Surprisingly, this is probably the only cool thing about this town but long
ago, right here, there was a series of disappearances in the surrounding
neighborhoods and all of a sudden, twenty bodies or so were found floating like lilly
Ainar spotted me coming down the path and waved, skating to the edge of the ice
closest to me and waiting.
“Hi,” I said, hurriedly putting on my own skates and sloppily lacing them up.
“And before you say anything, I’m late, I know I’m late, I said I wouldn’t be, yada
yada, in my defense Milo’s sick with the flu or something and he’s been meowling
nonstop all day cause we had to quarantine him in the garage.”
“Milo’s the black one with a white belly, right,” he said with a bemused look,
deciding to only listen to the last thing I said.
“No, that one’s black beauty,” I said stepping onto the ice and bending over to
tuck my laces into my skates. “Milo’s Minnow’s brother, the grey tabby ones?”
“Oh, the one that looks like a leopard,” Ainar asks, skating forward.
“No,” I groaned, following him across the ice. “That’s Byakomaru, and he looks
more like a tiger than a leopard.”
“Uh,” Ainars looked really confused, then shook his head suddenly. “Okay, you
have a sick cat. Well, one sick cat out of a million. But you’re here now,so it’s
“Not a million,” I grumbled. “It’s only 14.”
“And three of them are pregnant,” he said before skating off, leaving me to
brood in silence.
“Kittens get adopted,” I yelled at his back. “And they get chosen! Unlike you.”
Petty, I know, but I’m kind of defensive when it comes to the Pack. It’s just
the 16 of us, my Aunt Claire, an ex off broadway legend, me, a chaotic mess, and our
“You chose me,” he calls back.
“And now I’m stuck with you,”I muttered before skating after him.
We always used to skate at that time, late and night, when the rest of the
world was asleep. It was one of the few moments we ever had to breathe and be alone.
Besides the fact that our regular lives were always busy and packed with people
and noise, the rink was exactly the same. After school hours were always for the
younger kids, the ones who pretended they were the next Michelle Kwan or Yuzuru Hanyu
or Gordie Howe or Marie-Phillip Poulin all the way till dinner time. We’d come in the
morning but that’s when all the other high schooler dudes were here and they’d be
just as chaotic as the grade schoolers.
Comparing the two would be like comparing a barrel of monkeys to a barrel of
humans- just because one is supposed to be more mature doesn’t mean they actually
Then there was the matter of avoiding all the girls that seem to follow Ainar
like he’s some sort of magnet. I can’t blame them though. Ainar’s always had that
sort of quality about him, laconic, yet welcoming, quiescent yet talkative in his own
way, charming and hypnotizing, not that he ever notices.
Just like the thousands of time I almost told him I lo-
The statement took me by surprise and I tripped over my skates. I fumbled a
bit, trying to regain my balance before falling on my butt.
“Ow,” I pouted, rubbing my sore tailbone.
“Cyrus?” he asked, putting out a hand to help me up. He quickly pulled it back
and squated himself when he noticed my laces. I hadn’t even realized that they were
that sloppy until he bent down to retie them with a soft smile.
“What would you do without me,” he said with a soft laugh.
“I’d wear velcro,” I said indignantly. “But what are you sorry for?”
“Huh,” he asked, probably not realizing that he had said anything. “I, uh,
“You said ‘I’m sorry,’” I explained, trying not to focus on the way the light
reflected off his dark hair and the way it fell out of his beanie and into his face
and- yeah, nope. Ignoring it all. “What was that about?”
“Huh,” he said, running a hand through his hair before standing up and lending
me a hand. “It was nothing? I think I forgot what I was thinking about.”
Maybe I should’ve pressed it. Maybe I should’ve forced him into giving me an
explanation. But how was I to know that that night would be different from the
million other times he’d mention random words and phrases with no context?
But I was an idiot.
And that idiot laughed and said “Knowing you it was probably for some new and
stupid ice cream flavor that shouldn’t exist for the sake of the little sanity I have
“That was one time,” he pouted pulling back his hand and skating away from me.
“It was all of eighth grade,” I yelled, scrambling to get up and follow him.
“You traumatized the whole class. New flavors everyday like you were trying to be the
next Willy Wonka or something. Remember when you came in with squid ice cream and
wouldn’t stop complaining about how someone beat you to making it.”
“I did no-”
“Yes, you did! I distinctly remember Ms. Shamu telling you to stop crying over
a squid cause the squid wouldn’t cry for you and you muttering that someone broke up
with her and she heard yo-”
“When did that happen!”
“Eighth grade, you dummy!”
“I was not crying over squid…”
We fell into our usual bickering rhythm with an average ratio of 45:7 words in
my favor. Well, I talk the most. If you think silence is power then it would be in
Ainar’s favor. But that doesn’t really matter now.
The rest of the night was a blur of laughter and arguments and races and ice,
just like any other day. Except it wasn’t like any other because that was his last.
I wonder what I could’ve done differently if I’d just known.
His younger sister Ayana came to call us in later, walking their kugsha Shinya
and looking way too hyper to be up at one in the morning.
“Ainar, Mom’s gonna ground you if you stay out any longer!”
Complete lie. Mrs. Winters was too kind for her own good.
“And hi Cyrus!”
I waved back, and we skated over, trading our skates for boots before heading
back to the neighborhood.
When we reached the intersection with Bracci and Hamilton, I bent over to pet
Shinya and waved at Ayana before turning wrong, sorry left, on Hamilton.
“Don’t forget practice tomorrow,” Ainar yelled after me.
I could hear the smile in his voice. He was the one who was in danger of
getting kicked off the team if he skipped anymore practices.
“Wouldn’t dare,” I responded without turning back.
And that was the last thing I ever told Ainar Winters.
Needless to say, he didn’t show up for practice the next day. At first I’d
thought he was just running late or had taken Shinya out for a walk, but he still
hadn’t shown up by the time the rest of us had changed and gotten out to the ice.
“Villin, have you seen Winters today,” Coach Easton yelled at me first thing,
right after I finished my warm up laps. “He’s later than usual.”
“No sir,” I said, wondering the same thing. “Haven’t heard anything from him.”
He looks skeptical but leaves me alone for the rest of practice, resorting to
glaring at me from the sidelines.
And Ainar didn’t show up. Not after the first 30 minutes, not after the first
hour, not after the second, not after the whole two and a half hours of practice.
I avoided Coach after practice, unable to think of a good enough excuse to give
him as to why Ainar hadn’t shown up. Shoving my pads and practice jersey into my
duffel, I didn’t even have the time to check my phone before I left the locker rooms
from the back exit.
I was surprised to find 20+ notifications. There were 3 missed calls from
Claire and 8 text messages. From Ainar’s mom I had 5 missed calls and two voicemails.
Ayana had even sent me three texts.
I didn’t bother opening any of them and instead called back Ainar’s mom.
“Hello Mrs. Wi-”
“Cyrus, oh thank goodness! Have you seen Ainar? His coach sent his father an
email saying that he hasn’t shown up for practice but I don’t know where he could
possibly be because he wasn’t here when I woke up and when I opened the door Shinya
ran out and we can’t find him anywhere either and oh, Cyrus! Do you have any clue
where he might be!”
“I,uh, sorry Mrs. Wineters, he hasn’t responded to any of my texts,” Finally
said after she’d finished her mini rant. “I’ll be over in five minutes.”
I made a detour by Carcass point, looking over the ice to see if I could spot
his white streaked black hair or neon skate laces.
Needless to say, I found nothing.
I barely said anything when I got to the Winters, instead making a beeline for
Ainar’s room. There were three things I knew I had to find, knowing that if all three
of them were there it would mean he’d probably gone for a hike or rendez-vous
somewhere. If two of them were there, there was a good chance he was just being his
forgetful self. If one, there was still a good chance he was still here somewhere.
But there was a nagging feeling somewhere inside me, insisting that he was
gone, long gone, gone far, beyond even my imagination.
Dramatic, isn’t it? This wasn’t Ainar’s first disappearing act, so why was my
mind automatically going to the worst case scenario?
Usually Ainar would leave early in the morning, arriving right in time for
lunch at my place and falling into his seat with a sigh and a muttered “I’m
Then we’d head out back to our childhood treehouse in my aunt’s backyard and
he’d open his sketchbook to a new page, telling me about the people he saw on the
bus, the snippets of conversation he caught, the animals, trees he saw once he got to
his destination while he drew it all before giving me his sketches to judge.
He never took me with him when he went on his own expeditions to neighboring
small towns, but I never once asked to tag along either. Because I knew that when he
came back, I’d feel like I was there too.
But something felt different this time. Maybe it was the fact that he almost
never went anywhere during winter, always shambling like a zombie as if he belonged
in a cave somewhere, hibernating. Or maybe it was the fact that Shinya wasn’t with
him this time, which never happened. Or maybe it was because this time he hadn’t even
bothered opening my messages, ignoring me to the point that he couldn’t even leave me
on read. Or the fact that Ayana had bothered actually putting words together and
texting me instead of just forwarding random tumblr posts.Or the fact that-
There were a lot of facts, but I wanted them all to be false.
The second I opened his door, that voice in my head got louder. He never did
his bed, never organized his shelves, never cleared his desk so why was today any
But I still looked. I found the first item right away, the sketchbook I gave
him for his 15th birthday.
I was in a rush that day and had completely forgotten it was Ainar’s birthday.
I’d grabbed the first book I’d seen off a random shelf in my aunt’s antique store,
not registering the sketch of the sun and moon on its cover until I handed it to him.
He’d laughed at the coincidence of the sun and moon drawing since my aunt and his
mother were always gushing about how our names meant opposite things: Ainar moon and
“Opposites attract,” he’d said, a phrase that ignited way too many nervous
flames in me.
I opened the sketchbook, flipping through the pages, looking at the drawings,
searching for a note, any words, hints, anything.
But I found nothing.
I looked for his skates next, remembering when we’d gone down to Olson’s
workshop afterschool to each get a new pair of skates. We’d gotten the same kind with
Ainar’s just one size bigger than mine. They were black with red lightning streaks on
the side, Bauer Vapor models right after they’d come out. I’d started lacing mine
with regular red laces, but ainar had joked around trying the most absurd colors and
never being able to settle on one. He finally ended up buying three different sets:
blue, pink and green, all in neon.
I couldn’t find them anywhere, although I did find the green laces in the back
of his desk. I’d stuffed them into my hoodie pocket before looking for the next item.
His camera. Well, his film camera. He rarely took it anywhere since he hated
going through the hassle of using the school’s darkroom. I found a tin beneath his
box with a couple of photos, the ones he’d bothered to develop, but couldn’t find the
I found the digital one he’d gotten as part of the yearbook staff, but no
And that was when it finally dawned on me.
He’d left. Left me. Without saying goodbye.
At first, I looked for him everywhere. In the crowds of the few hockey games
left in the season, at bus stops, at the mall,the ice cream aisle at the grocery
store, the candy store on Zumwalt avenue.
I visited Carcass point almost every day, long after the ice melted wondering
if Ainar was just another casualty in the lake’s history. I almost hoped that someone
had gutted him in an alley somewhere, cause it would mean that Ainar hadn’t left. Or
atleast, not willingly.
But then I thought that maybe it was better this way. Better that he had left
without saying goodbye. At least this way he didn’t give me the false hope that I
could convince him to stay or take me with him or to wait just a bit longer. At least
this way it would be easier to forget him.
So I tried. I stopped looking for him, stopped doing the things we always did
together, abstained from ice cream, almost gave up on hockey completely, rejecting
all the offers to play in college. Ignoring our plan to go to college in Boston and
instead taking up an offer to play soccer in New York.
But the second I stepped off that plane to New York, the second I walked out of
that airport, everything reminded me of Ainar. One woman’s checkered hair would
remind me of his whitestreaked hair, another man’s neon hoodie his skates. One
person’s ringtone of the way he liked to hum when he drew, another’s lipstick of how
much he hated coloring his work.
“Colors already exist,” he’d pout. “There’s nothing original about them.”
I tried, I really did. I tried to forget his oddly specific laugh, the way he’d
duck his head instead of throwing it back without a care, as if his laugh was
something so rare and precious, reserved for only a special few. I tried to forget
the way he skated, as if there was an entire symphony playing just for him. I tried
to ignore his sketchbook, but I constantly found myself flipping through them,
looking for some sort of explanation.
And just like that, I was looking for him again. I’d step onto the edge of
fountains just to see if there were anyone around with the same hairstyle, haunt
subway stations to see if anyone walked the same way he did, with one hand in a
pocket, one sleeve rolled all the way up and the other hanging over his fingers. I
was back at looking for all the ice cream parlors in a 20-mile radius, tasting all
the weirdest flavors just so I could tell him about it when he came back.
It’s December, the week after Thanksgiving, and I still can’t bring myself to
give up. The snow here is different from home, slushy on the sidewalks and gray on
the streets. People here are different too, more yet less talkative than people back
home. Always talking, but never to you. And if they are talking to you, it’s always
the things you don’t want to hear. But still, I think Ainar would like it here. He’d
fit right in with these crowded sidewalks and empty hallways, blinding billboards and
I’m stuck in line at the Trader Joe’s on Columbus Avenue, having trugged a good
two miles from campus because I’d forgotten my lunch that morning. I don’t usually
come all this way, but the skating rink at Rockefeller Center had just opened and a
few friends had wanted me to meet up with them there so I decided to hit two birds
with one stone. But I think my legs are too tired to do much skating when we get
“Ah, so sorry sir,” I said, accidentally running into a guy as I tried to stuff
my change into my wallet.
The tub of ice cream that he was holding had fallen to the ground and although
it didn’t open, it was dented. In a way it kind of looked like an octopus.
“Oh, frick frack, I’m so sorry, I can repa-”
No no no no no no no no no no no no.
It wasn’t Ainar. No it wasn’t. Not after the 276 days (not that I counted)
without any calls, texts, emails, no contact whatsoever.
He did not get to walk back into my life when I was just trying to eat a salad.
“You’re kidding me.”
This was more often than not his line, usually after I’d text him what oddly
disturbing thing one of the cats had done or forwarded to him one of Ayana’s oddly
specific tumblr posts.
He looks almost exactly the same as he always has, with his black hair cut at
his jaw, tousled, with its regular white streaks, although there might be more than
the last time i saw him.
“Oh, you’re not kidding,” I asked, with a tense smile as I just stuffed my
whole wallet into my coat pocket. I could deal with the change later. “Then who are
you exactly? Don’t think we’ve met before.”
“Nice to see you too Cy,” he said with a smile going in for a hug.
“Uh, no,” I said, stepping back.
He looks a bit hurt and I’m equally torn by feelings of satisfaction and
“I’m trying to eat my lunch in peace before having to deal with people at the
rink,” I say in what I think is an impressively neutral tone considering the turmoil
of though going on in my head right now.
“You,” I say, stabbing a finger at his chest. “Are completely unaccounted for.
I have a schedule Ainar dear. And I am sorry to inform you that I am absolutely
packed until the 16th of December. Just two weeks.You can contact me then. And, oh
yeah! I did get a new number last week, in case you tried to contact me within the
last 276 days. Sorry for the inconvenience, but my email’s still the same. And, wow,
will you look at the time! See you in two weeks! If you still care, obviously.”
I push past him and stalk towards the door, feeling oddly content at being able
to tell him all the feelings and thoughts I’ve kept pent up for the past nine months.
It’s petty, I know. Childish even. But I can’t help it. Everyone needs payback.
I stick some headphones in to try and forget what just happened but I think my
phone hates me. Welcome My Friend, See You Again, History, In My Life, These Days,
even Seven Years. It’s like the universe didn’t wanna let me forget.
I angrily yang out my headphones and stuff them back into my pocket with the
When I get to the rink, I do the customary salutations before getting out my
skates. I know that sounds cold, but I want nothing more right now then to get onto
the ice and beat some little kids around the rink.
That isn’t helping my case, is it.
I quickly tie my skates before stepping onto the ice, glad to find that the ice
had just been smoothed so I wouldn’t have to deal with all the pesky little snow
I start skating, a bit sore from my walk and even more tense from lack of
practice but I get the hang of it easily enough. I start with one lap, two, three,
gradually neglecting the numbers as I grow too lazy to count.
Until I trip. Well, more like run into a wall. Skate into a wall to be more
accurate. And bounce back off.
“Ugh,” I say, getting up and dusting off my pants. Then I realize that my
skates have gotten untied.
I bend over to tie them before someone stops in front of me abruptly.
I think it might be one of my uni friends and look up with a defeated smile,
ready to cajole them into tying my skates for me, but the face I see instead isn’t
one I was planning on seeing.
He bends down to start tying my skates for me, his black hair striking a sharp
contrast with the ice.
“What happened to velcro Cy?”
THE END. I AM DONE. THAT IS IT. NOW GO TO SLEEP.