I look at my cell phone: 6:36. The temperature is a brisk 40-something, and I’ve worn a cap for the first time in five months.
We have begun the short and frosted slide from fall to winter. Like all good Minnesotans, I say this with a slight but determined smile on my face, a thin-lipped acknowledgement that there’s nothing we can do about it but hey! there’s always the promise of guilt-free gravy, am I right?
One strives to maintain one’s fat layers in the northern climes.
The bus stop has a small enclosure consisting of three glass walls – one covered by a posted bus schedule – and an arched roof; and I wonder, as I approach it, why the woman with the long red hair is not standing under its roof, as she normally does.
I cannot see yet, due to the posted bus schedule, what she can.
There is a man standing in there.
At first, I can’t put my finger on it…
And then I realize, as I get closer: It’s the dirt.
The fine, powdery dirt one finds in well-traveled areas, places where the earth no longer offers nourishment.
It is caked around his nostrils. His hands are black with it, his nails, encrusted. He is wearing sweatpants, a red Buckeye’s jersey that would turn the water in the clothes washer brackish and leave it in need of a good scrubbing.
He turns, looks up the block for the bus. His hair, while combed, is dusted, dirty. His ears, filthy and yet a dark, mottled pink, look like pork rinds.
At this moment, he is, outside of a handful of toddlers I know, one of the dirtiest people I’ve ever come across in public.
He has slept outside, in the dirt, and quite possibly without a blanket of any sort.
More than once.
The bus comes, and we board.
And I wonder what he will do when the temperatures dip below freezing.