I was taking the bus home one day, when it broke down. I was about three miles from home at the time, and it was just on the doorstep of winter. The frost of night had left everything petrified, or so it seemed. The birds were no longer here, and the grass was brittle enough to snap. I decided to walk the rest of the way.
Winter seems to be the death of all, a blanket of silence and a dream of being warm. My mother once told me that small birds sometimes freeze to death because they go to sleep, and they dream of being warm. I remember her telling me that as I stared at the perfect corpse of a sparrow, lying on the concrete patio that was part of my front porch.
I walked and walked, my head slowly growing numb, and my feet quickly becoming clumsy. I happened upon an alley that would give me a shortcut through the city blocks I navigated, so I took it. It was a long and narrow river of asphalt, and it had many tributaries of cement and brick. It was a maze unto itself. I met a young girl there, I met her, but she didn't meet me, she was dreaming like the birds. I could tell because her face was reddend, almost to a bluish tinge, and her coat was about as thick as one of my ripped flannel shirts (of which I am greatly fond of). I woke her up, and never asked her name. I took her to the nearest thrift shop (the name of which I cannot remember for the life of me) and bought her a coat, and a hat (she wanted a blue coat instead of a pink one, lord how I detest the color pink. I was overjoyed that I had let her decide). Afterwards, I gave her my last fifty, and told her to keep ahold of it, to keep it secret.
I knew the routines of most of the policemen of the city, so I took her to a coffee shop many of them frequented. I've had my more hooliganish moments, and while i've never really been caught, I was pretty much well-known among the various members of the force. I saw Murphy's cruiser, ah Murphy, last winter he'd become a father, and nearly arrested me for breaking various curfew and drinking laws. I'd almost sent him a Christmas card, you know, just as a joke.
I tapped on his window (he liked to snooze inside the cruiser, he wasn't really that sociable. That's why I liked him. The dialogue is unimportant, as I wish it had been shorter. The kid was still pretty damn red, and Murphy didn't even offer to let us in his car, or suggest we talk inside the cafe. I wasn't feeling a thing. All parts of me were numb, but by some mystery, I retained my personal grace.
He took her, I left. As I continued on my journey (I was now more than four miles away, instead of closing in to my home, I'd spiraled outward) I slipped and fell. I cut my face on the frosted dirt, and I bled freely. By the time I arrived home, I was slightly frostbitten, and grim-faced. But I knew my eyes were shining like small suns. My mother regarded me with a strange look. She asked me where i'd been. I told her the bus broke down, and I had been robbed. I never liked telling stories.
Those hours kept me happy though, my eyes were grinning for months, and people seemed to regard them with simple wonder.
The bus driver was puzzled, I had paid for my ride, why didn't I finish it?
The girl kept asking me "Why?"
Murphy just regarded me with a warm, but sad smile.
My mother was scared, but relieved I was alright.
I had interfered with all of their lives, just slightly though. I strayed from acceptable courses and ventured into my own river. I'd like to think that alley is empty now, waiting to guide me the next time I jump track and flow away.