The story so far:
Gray clumps stuck to the breast of my overcoat. I brushed down my front, re-tucked my scarf, and plodded carefully toward the depot as the 7:14 pulled away. I swear the driver winked at me.
There was a time to be thankful for anxiety, and this was it. I’d afforded myself nearly an hour of extra time for transit – I’d pleasantly surprised myself by picking the perfect outfit on my first jaunt into my walk-in closet. Rare was the occasion when I’d find the right clothes, but function precluded fashion in weather like this, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice warmth, especially when it dealt with bus runs.
With the diminished importance of wardrobe, I let my mind wander to why my father wanted to see me. He’d deserted mom on a mission to Florida over a decade ago, presumably to find climates and women less frigid. He was far from irresponsible, funding my five-year college education and supplying a car (used, but new to me) for my seventeenth birthday. He extended an open invitation for me to move south and live with him, but there was something magnetic about Toronto.
A horn blast abruptly reminded why now wasn’t the best time to ponder such matters. As if it was my fault Mr. Honda Civic couldn’t drive on ice. I bowed my head and raised one mitten; if he chose to believe all of my fingers were extended, so be it. The hatchback skidded to an unnecessary complete stop, then spun wheels before turning right. Served him right. There was a time for fuel efficiency and a time to break out the tire chains or leave your compact car in the garage.
Arctic temperatures left me little desire to dawdle. I located a path of flattened snow and jogged the remainder of the distance to the depot, a semi-enclosed, fluorescent glowing, plexiglass structure that rattled when the wind kicked up. Few commuters were out today, leaving me my choice of metal benches which ranged from mildly damp to ice-glazed like a frozen doughnut.
Over the summer, I might have considered leaving newspapers polluting. Today, the classifieds abandoned on a bench were a courtesy cushion which kept my backside dry.
I debated calling Mom to let her know where I was going, but beyond providing that information, I could think of nothing to talk about. At 24, I didn’t have to check in anymore. Besides, if she wanted to know where I was, she could call me. Plus, I didn’t want to remove my mittens unless required.
“Got a light?”
An elderly man had silently shuffled up behind me; I could see his layers of flannel and Colts toboggan weren’t adequate, as he was visibly shivering. Patches of white stubble punctuated his chin, but he didn’t look destitute, just unkempt.
Steamy breath blew through my scarf as I uttered, “I don’t smoke.”
“Neither do I. Just hoping to thaw out some.”
I felt bad for him. At least he didn’t ask for money. Which was good, because Mom had instilled in me never to open my purse if I wasn’t making a purchase. The thought made me clutch my bag closer to my side. He remarked, “Relax, honey. There’s cameras all over the place, and a couple of security guards inside that kiosk.”
That didn’t provide any comfort.
“Where you going?”
I shrugged softly and turned away, careful to keep him within my peripheral.
“Listen, hon. If I really cared where you were going, I’d watch what bus you were hopping. Next one’s not here for twenty minutes anyway. You don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine. But it’s damn cold and I’m going to keep talking just so my spit don’t freeze. You getting off work?”
I shook my head.
“It ain’t a boyfriend. If he’s not willing to drive you home or keep you overnight in this weather, you deserve better.”
Was that some deranged version of a proposition?
“So I’m going to say you’re picking up something on an errand. Medicine, maybe. Woman stuff?”
Like I was going to answer.
“How rude of me,” he snickered. “We haven’t even been properly introduced. I’m Vic.”
I didn’t want to be rude – at least I didn’t five minutes ago. I made my eyes droopy and hoped he’d have a breakthrough clue to figure out how uninterested I was.
“Wow, you look beat. I read somewhere that sleep deprivation is as dangerous as alcohol. Good thing you’re not driving, huh?”
“Vic?” I started. I sighed a bit too heavily and my glasses fogged over.
“She speaks!” he mocked enthusiasm. “Lay that wisdom on me, hon.”