I look around, note the frozen hipsters on the bus (once their skin goes black, there’s nothing to do but mash them up and make bread with them).
I bemoan the cuts on my hands where I’ve carelessly run their dry knuckles against the hard-edged corners of the month of February.
I absentmindedly count the layers of clothing I am wearing (fully 8 pieces more than in, say, August).
And I sigh.
Winter has its boot on the back of my neck.
I think back, fondly, to summer. My memories have developed the soft-focus affect of a dream, just moments after waking. June. July. I don’t remember wearing shoes then. And I recall stepping outside – now get this! – without putting on a hat.
Who goes outside without wearing a hat?
From the deepest, most humid parts of my brain, the squat bald man in my head slides his pudgy, dimpled hands against each other gleefully. The smell of smoke accompanies him.
Where did he get those cigarettes?
I close my eyes. I hate when he smokes in there.
“Why don’t you,” he says, “call in sick a couple days?” He takes a drag of his Pall Mall, blows the hit toward my left ear. “We’ll get drunk,” he says, “and rub our dry little hands over our tubby little middles, see what shakes loose.”
As if to illustrate, he runs his hands over his own belly. His cigarette, badly in need of ashing, dangles from his lips.
I turn away.
“Come on,” he says. “We’ll do Stupid Human Tricks.” He pulls his tee-shirt up – the one that says “I’m Not a Doctor, But I’ll Take a Look” – pats his head with one hand, rubs his gut with the other.
The ash from his cigarette falls, wiping out most of second grade.
I blink slowly. I didn’t need those memories, anyway.
The squat, bald man in my head takes another pull from his cigarette – “squares”, he calls them – and closes his left eye, peers at me with the right. “So what’re you going to do about it?”
I sigh again, something I’m thinking of taking up competitively. “I have a sick day planned for March,” I say.
The squat, bald man in my head spits into my memories of the seventh grade Sadie Hawkins dance. “You’ve planned,” he says, horrified, “a sick –“
He can’t finish.
“I’m going to make meatballs this weekend,” I offer, feebly. “That’s kinda fun…” The word “fun” is barely out of my mouth before it plops, sullenly and without pretense, to the floor.
The squat, bald man in my head can take no more, and from somewhere far to the back, near the id but really not that far from the escalator, I hear a door open.
“OK,” he shouts, “I can’t hang out here listening to this kind of drivel. If you need me, I’ll be back here, setting fire to stuff.”
And the door slams shut.