We could fly to Thunder Bay on a plane,
kissing our palms and pressing them
to the cold metal exterior before boarding,
listening to the scarf-wearing flight attendant
rattle off safety instructions in English and en Français.
We used to joke, but now it’s true:
fuck America, I’ll take my chances with the cold.
Thunder Bay might be as backwards as home, but it’s
racist without Rebel flags,
its transphobia tucked under family ties.
Squint and we’re safe.
We’ll arrive in the snow,
salt from the runway stinging our skin
as we slip on black ice to the rental car.
It’s dark, but Grandma’s house is bright,
squatting on Mary Street across from the indigenous school.
When we wake up, my wife’s childhood mountain looms.
We’ll look at photos of snowbanks
taller than her toddler head.
The Trans-Canada Highway curves
between Fort William and Port Arthur.
Our tires glide along salt-speckled blacktop,
green pines flickering past, little sign
of deer watching, silent in the snow.
Grandpa will be shoveling. Our car doors slam
as we run to him. His arms catch us tight,
laughter booming, face red above his coat.
He gives me tea.
I’ll tell him what I’ve left behind.
His family’s strong Finnish farmers.
His broad hands cradle his cup.
We’ll wind through town, down to the lake,
quiet so the Sleeping Giant doesn’t wake.
His craggy nose juts into a white sky.
On Christina Street, my wife shows me her house
from before, before immigrating, before America, before this:
the little attic porthole where she peered out,
ringlets around red cheeks, watching for Dad
or the catty-corner neighbor
who was trans in the Nineties,
tall and proud amidst cold uncertainty.
She would understand the fluttering in my heart
beneath my binder, shirt, and coat.
Kirstin Ethridge has a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Evansville and has previously had work published in apt magazine. They live in southern Indiana with their wife.