And now? Now there is no more time for flirting or for beer. Now's the time to return home early, prompted by the rolled eyes of wives, to the baby-sitters who are waiting to be paid. Now is the time for the next 20 years, to be played out in repeat, night after night, fuelled on by town gossip, hockey triumphs and the occasional all-inclusive vacation to Mexico.
But it's okay. It's okay because loneliness is what Cold Lake does best.
This is what I miss most about Cold Lake winters. I miss the stillness. I miss going to bed early because there's nothing else to do. I miss the winding car rides past the lake and through what will never be again, the echo of the bathwater as it cools down. I miss the pointless errands, scraping ice off my car, hiding in bed until 11 a.m. I miss when music had meaning.
I miss the quiet and the dark and the cold and the stars and the northern lights. And sometimes, I even miss the insomnia.
But most of all, I miss the kind of loneliness that only comes when you're actually alone.