Kevin goes to the bathroom at home because the bathrooms at school stress him out. Home is the only place where he knows how to be alone and relax. At school or at the rink, he’s always part of a group, but at home, being alone feels natural. Benji is waiting for Kevin outside the house. Kevin wants to hug him, but his impulse control is too strong.
Kevin’s life has a heavily performative aspect—among his peers, he has to maintain a certain façade. Benji is the only person he can truly be himself around, but even with him, Kevin is reluctant to show his feelings. Being part of a group—feeling that he’s a possession of the town, in a way—is costly for him, even though it’s a status that many covet.
At the high school, Amat catches up with his best friends Lifa and Zacharias. They bonded from an early age over the fact that they’re not like everyone else. As they walk into school, chatting, a hockey player named Bobo knocks Zacharias’s cap off his head, then shoves him to his knees. He tosses back some flippant insults that he forgets much more quickly than the three boys do. Amat worries that someday, Zacharias’s anger is going to explode.
In contrast to Kevin, Amat and his friends don’t fit into the culture of the school whatsoever. In one way, this deepens the bond between the three of them; but, at the same time, the pressures of high school render those bonds unstable, as later events (also involving Bobo) will show.
Kevin remembers a time in primary school when he got lost after a game and was beaten up by the older brothers of some players he’d defeated. Benji showed up and took on all three of the older bullies. Later, when they rejoined their teammates, they discovered that, even when David offered to stay behind by himself, the entire team had refused to leave until Kevin was found. Kevin has always known that his team wouldn’t abandon him. Now, in the high school corridors, the entire team congregates around him and Benji. As they walk through the halls, Kevin is momentarily distracted when his eyes meet Maya’s. When Maya sees Kevin, she almost shuts her hand in her locker. Ana teases her mercilessly about it.
In contrast to Amat and his friends, Kevin has been valued and protected by a large group of his peers ever since he was a little boy. He’s always known that someone will have his back, and that he’ll even be buffered from the consequences of his actions to a certain extent. Less popular and privileged students don’t have the luxury of that time of loyalty and belonging.
Amat and Lifa try to calm Zacharias down. Lifa is resigned—he quit hockey when he was younger because he hated the locker-room “banter,” and was told that this was “his problem, not hockey’s.” Amat and Zacharias still play. Amat tries to reassure Zach that when they’re on the junior team next year, things will get better. Zacharias knows he’s not good enough to get a place on the junior team. Amat seems to be the only one who doesn’t realize he’s soon to leave Zach behind.
The idea that something “isn’t hockey’s problem”—in this case, the atmosphere of locker room talk—will come up many times in the story. Hockey is the norm around which everyone and everything else is expected to unify and conform. That norm has the potential to splinter even the most loyal of friendships, even if Amat doesn’t believe that yet.
When Amat sees Maya in the corridor, he forgets everything else. He greets Maya too loudly, and she disappears distractedly. Zacharias mocks him about the fact that he’s loved Maya since they were children. He’s right; Amat loves Maya even more than hockey.
Though Maya seems only interested in Kevin, Amat has a longstanding love for her, which will inevitably complicate the dynamic between the three of them. The fact that Amat loves her more than he loves hockey also shows that he’s not obsessed with the sport the way some other players are.