I wake up super early for me, at ten. The sign says twenty two below, but the gas station is warm and I get an orange juice so I have an excuse to hang out inside and warm up before tackling the van.
The Haynes manual is extremely hazy about the details of getting the doghouse off, and the pictures look nothing like my van. I pull everything between the seats into the back, and pull away the carpeting around the doghouse. There are two bolts that seem to fit into the context of the picture. I get the nut off the first one off with a 13mm socket, but the bolt sticking out of the second one is too long. I need a deep well socket and I don’t have one. The parts store’ll be open in a few minutes, so I start hitchiking.
It’s a long cold walk before anyone picks me up. When he does pull over I don’t like my first look at him. If it were warmer I’d reject his ride, and I try to tell myself not to make shitty decisions just because I’m cold. That’s how bad things happen. But when I get close enough to actually see him I like him, so I climb in and his little pug dog rides on my lap to the parts store. The smell of weed is so thick in his truck you could almost get a contact high. He’s highly upset that I’m sleeping in my van at twenty below, and that the mechanics haven’t come in to the shop (which is just across the parking lot and run by the same people as the gas station I’m at) to save me. He comes into the parts store with me and tries to rustle up a mechanic, and then he drives me back to the van.
There’s a mechanic there at the gas station when we get back, and he ropes the guy into looking at the van. I put it partway back together and get the mechanic to spray some starter fluid I got at the parts store in while I turn the key. Of course, after sitting all night the battery’s dead, so the first guy gives me a jump while the second guy sprays the starter fluid. Nothing. So not a feul issue.
The nice guy gives me his phone number and tells me to call him “if things get bad,” whatever that means, before he leaves. I get the second bolt off and try to pull the engine cover off, but it’s not budging. There are more bolts up under the carpet somewhere, and it’s carpet that isn’t budging. I go inside to warm up, but once inside I start to wonder what I’m doing wasting time while the parts store’s open. I go back out and tug at things, but I’m cold and I don’t know what to do so I go back inside.
My third trip inside I realise how crazy this is. I’m just wandering in circles accomplishing nothing, and my brain is not working. This has never happened to me before, and I don’t know if I should blame it on the cold or the fact that I haven’t eaten anything except some caribou jerky. I’m hungry.
My brain’s probably a more immediate issue than the van, so I go in search of food. I’d tried to cook the night before, but it was too cold for the propane to work. The gas station food is gross. I ask the boy who’s working, the owner’s son, if there’s anyplace in town to get warm food, and he says no. I buy an apple and sit in the back. I’ll probably die here in this creepy little town with no warm food.
The store closes at six, and I go straight to bed with Bro and the hot water bottles (which are just glass jars that I put hot water in). There’s nothing else to do. I don’t want to brave the Jesus boy at the other gas station, and it’s best to get warm as quickly as possible.
Bro climbs up next to me, and I wrap the blankets around both of us. We shiver together for a couple hours before we stop shivering and he sticks his head out from under the blanket for fresh air, letting in a new round of twenty-something below air. This time it warms up faster, and Bro holds still so as not to let more cold air in. I drift in and out of sleep for a few hours until my phone rings in my pocket at 2AM.
It’s Hat-Ma. She reads me stripper blogs for hours and we try to figure out where we should both be. Florida? North Dakota? Wyoming? Colorado? The geography of stripper money is an art and a science.
When I wake up I’m bleeding. No wonder I was so depressed and confused.