Glad for the momentary distraction, I reached for my fogged glasses. The bulky mittens bunched up around my fingers, making my movements clumsy, but I managed to get a weak grip on one side and slide them off.
And realized just how silly that was. I usually cleaned my glasses on my shirt, but that was nestled under my tightly-buttoned coat, and I wasn’t about to open that up. And after my spill in the grubby snow, I certainly wasn’t going to use my coat to do any cleaning.
Vic was still watching me, an amused look on his face. I gritted my teeth and deliberately looked away, resuming my search for a clean spot of cloth on which to wipe my glasses.
“I do believe you were about to tell me your name, honey.”
His tone was still cheerful, but I wasn’t in the mood. “Look, Vic, this isn’t a good time.”
“Yeah, I know. But don’t worry, I don’t mind. Pretty much everyone’s a real bear these days before they had a chance to get their coffee.”
I glanced up at him, squinting a little to clear up the blur that was his face. It didn’t sharpen much, but enough to see the wide grin making his whiskers point straight outward on both sides. Enough to know that his “misunderstanding” had been deliberate.
When I twisted in my seat to turn away from him, I heard a cracking sound. The ice had been so kind as to fasten the classified ads to my posterior.
I allowed myself a moment to form some new and creative descriptions for winter, then reached behind myself to adjust my cushion. My tentative grasp on my glasses slipped at that very moment, sending them tumbling for the grit-encrusted snow at my feet. I frantically grabbed at them, but my fingers uselessly slid along the inside of the mittens without catching anything. The glasses made a soft slushy noise as they half-buried themselves in the snow. Another gust of wind rattled the plexiglass around me, sending more ice crystals flying and finishing the job of covering my fallen glasses.
A scream of pure frustration rose in my throat, but I bit it back, too dignified to let myself make a scene.
But my body seemed to have other plans, because the scream caught in my throat and morphed unexpectedly into a sob. I drew in a sharp breath through clenched teeth to regain control over myself. The cold air stung all the way to my lungs.
“Here now,” Vic said, suddenly at my side. I recoiled, but he gently lifted my glasses from the snow and brushed them off. He drew a surprisingly clean-looking section of flannel from the middle of his layers and cleaned the lenses. “All better now, see? Nothing to worry about, hon.”
I took another deep breath before reaching for my glasses. The chunky mitten on my hand made me think twice, though, and I reluctantly pulled the offending accessory off. My fingers tingled and protested at the exposure to the fierce cold. I quickly took my glasses, slid them back into place, and stuffed my hand back into the warmth of the mitten, being careful not to breathe too hard again.
“Thank you,” I mumbled after a moment, wrapping my arms tightly around myself. And my purse.
“Don’t think a thing of it.” He backed away, back to his original distance, and shifted his weight back and forth, breathing on his hands to warm them up.
I found myself relaxing a little, and I glanced in his direction once more. I hadn’t noticed the kindness in his eyes before. Maybe he was one of the nice street crazies.
“I’m not usually like this,” I said, suddenly feeling a need to explain myself. “It’s just a weird morning.”
“What kind of weird?”
“My—my dad wants to see me.” The next thing I knew, the words were flying out of me like the tiny ice-flakes on the wind. “For twelve years he’s perfectly happy to live in Florida and just send me emails and wire money to college and maybe visit on Christmas and that’s it, and suddenly he’s calling me up and saying he’s here, in Toronto, and he wants to see me. How crazy is that? And he wouldn’t say anything about it on the phone, just said he had something he wanted to talk to me about in person. What would make a person fly all the way from Florida to Toronto just for a conversation? And then I miss my bus because of the stupid ice and—”
“Hey,” a snively voice interrupted my verbal dump. Vic and I looked up at a scrawny guy shivering as he ducked into the shelter, escaping the wind. “You waiting for the bus?”
“It’s a bus stop, isn’t it?” I demanded, unable to keep the irritability out of my voice.
He didn’t answer. He just jerked a thumb over his shoulder, pointing further down the street.
I looked, but couldn’t see what he was pointing to. The newspaper frozen to my backside crinkled as I stood and moved to the side of the shelter, peering through scratched Plexiglas to see what the guy was trying to show us.
The bus was there, about three blocks down. And it was sideways in the street. With its emergency flashers on.
“I don’t think anything’ll be coming this way for a while,” scrawny guy offered helpfully before stepping back out into the wind and hurrying on his way.
My forehead drooped until it rested on the side of the shelter. The Plexiglas was cold. Maybe I would freeze to it, just like the newspaper froze to me. That’d be a sight.
“Well, guess we’re walking it,” Vic said, sounding as calm as if he was talking about a stroll in the park on a spring afternoon.
I grunted. “You go ahead and walk. I can’t make it where I’m going without the bus.”
There was a long silence, and at first I thought he’d left, but then he spoke again from behind me. “Actually, hon, if you can get there by bus, then I know another way there.”