This Killing Winter: Part Three

The next day was miserable. My home was open to any random asshole the company assigned me, and though this was normal enough and, I supposed, my lot as a low-paid kitchen worker in need of cheap, temporary housing, I also knew it wasn’t something I could live with. Whoever this new roommate was, it was clear he had no idea what basic consideration of others amounted to. I was ready to walk off the job, if this was what I had to look forward to. 

I thought often and puzzled over these two “dreams” that I’d had, and what they might indicate. I’d entertained any number of theories, one being that something – these elemental spirits? – had been trying to protect my sovereign space. It seemed childish, perhaps; especially now in light of the fact that my home was anything but protected. Maybe these were warnings, delivered in a neutral tone: they were showing me what would happen, and that was as much intervention as they could or cared to manage. But whatever the motivation, I couldn’t help but feel that something was communicating with me, something outside of myself, delivering messages of import. 

This was in February, but let me back up a little. 

At Christmas time, the resort’s kitchen was shocked by the rumors that Pete, the sous chef of daytime operations, had attempted suicide. This was one of many factors that left many of us thinking that this was turning out to be a particularly hard winter. I’d already had one friend back in Seattle – another cook (an executive chef, in fact) – die suddenly for unknown reasons. The news about Pete travelled fast through the kitchen, and people had a hard time accepting it. I’d known Pete since my first season at the resort, and had at first been able to talk with him, though as the seasons rolled past, he became more and more distant, and we interacted less – finally, hardly at all. The suicide attempt had been unsuccessful, but it was serious. This was no mere cry for attention. What seemed in some ways even more shocking was that within a couple of weeks, Pete was back at work, carrying on as if nothing had happened, and if one could tell from his demeanor, expecting others to do the same. Unable to simply ask him about it, the rest of us were baffled. Had the rumors been exaggerated? Finally, I figured, what else was he supposed to do? He needed to work, right? Things carried on, though I often wondered if there was something that I could or should do to reach out to him, as if I had some responsibility. We’d sort of, at least some time ago, been friends. One day, meeting up with him on the loading dock where people went to smoke, I asked him about martial arts, something I knew he’d taught once and was passionate about. We made tentative arrangements for me to take instruction with him; it was something I’d often, in earlier times, thought about doing anyhow. He seemed genuinely interested. 

When, a week later, I was in my throes over my housing situation and complained to a friend that I was ready to quit because of it, Pete was in earshot and asked me if I’d like to move in with him. He worked year-round at the resort and had his own apartment, not far from where I’d been living. Since his wife had recently left him, and her eldest son moved out as well, he had a spare bedroom and would charge the same rent as what I now paid – way below fair share of the apartment’s cost. He just wanted somebody around, he said. Although I knew this was an unstable environment, I couldn’t help but feel that I was being led toward something. This might allow me to keep with my job, and maybe I could provide some modicum of support to someone who really needed it. I’m no crisis counsellor – I had no illusions about that – but if Pete just needed someone friendly around, I could at least, or so I thought, manage that. 

Pete was a burly guy, covered with Japanese-influenced tattoos, and as a former professional cage-fighter, no doubt something of a badass, but underneath that a basically gentle soul in a great deal of pain. Moving into his apartment, I didn’t know what to expect at first, but it seemed, on the surface, a great improvement. He could at the very least respect the fact that another person lived under the same roof. We were, in the beginning, able to compare our strange experiences: he was, for instance, a witness to the Phoenix lights of 1997, and this was something I never would have guessed. He’d had many other encounters as well, and we could swap stories about things of this nature: UFOs, the shamanic, the paranormal. It seemed he was an old hand, and had, like me, long felt something calling him that marked him and left him feeling slightly outside the scope of mainstream human affairs. 

But the severity of his depression was hardly a thing of the past and over with. He drank heavily, nearly constantly, sometimes on the job, and when at home, he seldom left the couch. Since the sofa was right beside my bedroom door, night after night of his passing out in front of the tv began to make me a little squirrelly; he was always just right there. What’s more, his over-large personality seemed to take up all the air in the room, whether I had my door shut or not. Living at the apartment, I began to feel like a piece of set-dressing, another prop or background actor in someone else’s movie. This was a familiar feeling to me, something I’m entirely too sensitive to perhaps, and one of the reasons I value solitude so highly. 

Also, I worried about the real likelihood of coming home to a dead body. 

In time, I found navigating around the atmosphere of the apartment to be more exhausting than working on my feet all day. For what little he told me about what was going on with him, it was clear there was a great deal more that he wasn’t saying. If I was there to be of any support, it wasn’t working, and I could only resent the pressure that I felt I was under. Still, the sense that I’d been navigated into this position by something beyond myself persisted. It seemed even unavoidable; the events that had brought me here were like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, all fitting too neatly together. There was a sense that I had a job I needed to do; I just couldn’t see what that job was, or that I was doing it. But the winter ski season is, thankfully, a finite thing, and its close in mid-April was drawing nearer. I had only to hang on for a few weeks more, and then move on back to Washington, but I had no idea how difficult that would prove to be.

[To be continued.]

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