Register Friday | December 14 | 2018

Is This the Edifying Fire?

Winner of Maisonneuve's "Cruelest Month" literary contest

There is nothing more February than February in Winnipeg: "cold" always has "bitter" in front of it, the snow is white to the point of being blue and the air crystallizes into glass-it's as though you can swing your mittened fist and crack it into tiny shards. This is the very definition of February. If Plato had ever spent a winter in Winnipeg, he'd have found his eponymous ideal of all Februaries.

And if he was smart (the general consensus has it that he was), Plato would have partied. February parties in Winnipeg are the very reason you can go on living in a world that is hostile and frozen. You come in from the bone-splintering cold, leaving your breath suspended behind you like an icy Calder mobile and kicking your host's front step to loosen the ballast of snow from your feet. You unwrap yourself in a hall of thawing boots, where a coat stand tilts, laden with parkas, precarious as a drunk in a blizzard. You then move into the embracing fug of human company-too many people in a crowded space talking, smoking, drinking, laughing, dancing, kissing. Partying.

People throw parties (not "events," mind you-nothing catered, nothing with dress codes) to be surrounded by friends having a good time. It sounds simple, and it is. But in Winnipeg in February, parties go much deeper, the way snow banks are always deeper than your boot tops. Parties shore you up against the battering winds of life. You lose a job, you get sick, your dad dies, your girlfriend leaves you, you make mistakes, your car won't start (well, that one's really your own fault for not plugging in the block heater and running the engine for five minutes every couple of hours-this is Winnipeg, for God's sake), you feel alone. Sometimes, life can be the February of your soul. Parties shelter you, take you in, rub your hands until the sting goes away. Don't worry: You don't need that job, you get better, you drink to your dad, you meet someone new and I've got jumper cables in my trunk. You are not alone.

The need to feel this is primitive; it's a basic part of our DNA. Get in the cave, eat, drink, swap stories around the fire, fool around on the woolly mammoth rug in Grog's bedroom, wait for the ice age to scrape back up the continent so you can all go to the beach on the May Two-Four of man's time on earth. Have some pizza and crack open another beer (kept beautifully chilled, by the way, on a Winnipeg back porch). Let's party.

When it's over, and you're trudging home along streets populated by nothing but dinosaur-sized snowplows, you have been suitably fortified to get through life's cold snaps. Parties are good and necessary things. After all, March is just around the corner of Portage and Main, and March is way worse than February. Plato would have hightailed it out of Winnipeg in March.