Sunday, January 23, 2011

Time Left

It feels really good to have nothing in my pockets. I’ve gained a little bit of weight over the holidays, so it’s somewhat comforting that the absence of a cell phone, wallet, pack of cigarettes and a lighter in my pants pockets isn’t providing me extra padding. It’s pretty cold, though. I could use a coat right now. Stupid me, I forgot to take one with me when I left. Doubt I’ll make the same mistake twice. Wouldn’t that be funny?

And I have no shoes. I’m shivering, and my hair is wet, but my legs are fine. The snow crunches under my bare feet and wets the legs of my jeans. I start out running then ease up into a light jog. Each breath is illustrated before me briefly as a cloud of white mist. This is beautiful.

It doesn’t take long to warm up. My ears are a little numb, especially my left, and the cold is keeping my legs from performing at their best, but all things considered I’m in pretty good shape. If I don’t get frost bitten and lose my feet, that is. Ha.

Look here, there’s a woman pushing a stroller. She’s wearing a cotton mask to protect against the flu. Her baby is pushed before her in a vinyl chariot replete with nylon mesh and zippers. Royalty. I jog past the basketball court. No one is there, given the season. I’ve long held the belief that living in a country with hot summers and cold winters builds the best of characters, but what cruel god would deny outdoor basketball for three to four months every year? It just seems vindictive, like Zeus gave us winter as punishment for being good looking.

I almost slipped on a patch of ice. These soles provide no traction. Ha. Strangely, as I whip past – an exaggeration of the highest degree – a group of middle-age ladies doing calisthenics, I’m reminded of a girl I once knew. Her name was Charlotte. She wore a wig on our first date, for reasons I initially never bothered asking and forgot to inquire about before our relationship burned out. It was probably nothing, but questions like that will make a man lose his mind sometimes.

I’m almost out of breath by the time I approach three middle school kids ahead. The tallest of the trio, a boy with brush-bristle hair, kicks a ginko tree as soon as his mates are directly under it, showering them with snow. Their curses of indignation and surprise contain a note of endearment particular to adolescents’ dual frustration and love for their peers. I still remember that sound.

I might head on home, or maybe not. It depends on the weather. The sun is setting and the temperature is dropping. To be sure, it’s a long walk back. But what other option do I have? I might check into a hotel if I hadn’t left my wallet, and the credit card contained within, back at my apartment. But I didn’t so I can’t. All I have is what I took with me, which isn’t a lot.

Blue and red lights flicker by as I try not to notice them, instead looking up at the fat snowflakes blowing up, down, and around on this fiercely assertive winter’s day. A fireman walks up to me and says, “We’re going to lift you up now,” but I am elsewhere.

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