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by D. M. Larson
It's a chilly night. The freezing wind bites at every exposed part of my body. Most were huddled in a small cafe near the bus station. They seemed happy with their coffee and warmth, thankful for a dime a cup deal. As I got near them, they got quiet. Puffs of smoke divided our worlds, each of us isolated in our thoughts. The cold kept me moving.
As I moved further into the depths of downtown, and as I drew closer to the division, the number of bars multiplied, their neon lights almost endless. Many of people who end up on the streets are alcoholics and there were plenty of places for them to find their old friends. The homeless wandering here have no place to be this night, alone and not as cheerful as the ones in the cafe. They were probably feeling the cold as I was, but I didn't live here. I could escape. This is all they had, feeling the cold's bitter embrace, some shivering frightfully because they didn't even have the luxury of gloves as I did. Upon seeing me, they all would scatter, taking another street, moving to an alleyway. And when I passed, they often would watch us go by, curious, but unwilling to speak. They would turn away after I passed, often disappearing into alleys and doorways, wanting nothing more than to be forgotten.
A homeless man with a stray cat following him like a puppy, ever anxious for the other's warmth in the bitter wind. Together they were a picture of a certain happiness and joy that I could never comprehend. The two disappeared together through a door going someplace that only they shared, separate from all else.
Hurt, anger, or loneliness. I could step away ... and have my coffee and hot breakfast. But they couldn't. They were trapped there, behind the smoky glass.