The cold had seeped in and made the bones in his fingers ache. He cupped his hands before his mouth and tried to warm them up with his breath, knowing full well that seconds later the pain would come back. He could picture his gloves sitting on the rickety chair by his front door. He berated himself. Told himself things he’d never let anyone say to him. Insults. Accusations of a feeble mental faculty.
He selected his steps carefully, trying to keep his shoes and pants clean. There were patches of grey, translucent slush haphazardly strewn over the side walk. Cars were driving by. There were few people on the street. Storefronts were decorated with staff looking sullenly at the cars walking by. None expected anyone to enter their store. They were killing time with their stare, trying to find the middle distance. He walked past all of them.
He slipped his hands in his coat pockets, his shoulders raised as he thoughtlessly tried to straighten his arms. His body was criticizing his decision to be out. His toes were making him aware of their presence and of their dislike of the cold. His ears were now painful. The sides of his neck, at the base of his skull, were inducing a headache.
He had to get out of this cold. He started to walk faster to try and warm up. His chin was tucked against his chest. A red light commanded him to stop. He contemplated the order. As he reached the curb he looked to the side, using the corner of his eye, and saw a car coming. He stopped and closed his eyes, wincing. The car drove by in front of him, splashing slush on his shoes and shins. He took a deep breath. Looking down, his efforts at playing hopscotch with the slush had been in vain.
The light was green. He stared at it. He let out a deep breath of resignation. He crossed the street reluctantly. Pain. He sharply turned and opened a door. A bell rang. He took his hands out of his pockets, stretching them out, relaxing his shoulders. The store was empty.
Someone emerged from the back room smiling. When she saw him her practiced smile disappeared. She glanced him over. She stared at his shins and shoes accusingly. She started to say something, but instead looked at his shins again, her lips poised to say something. She closed her mouth, made eye contact with him. She turned away. Returned to the back room. As he made his way across the store to join her he heard the back door open and close.
He was alone in the store for the rest of the day.
He stood by the front window, sipping on a cup of tea, staring out onto the street. Trying to find the middle distance.