Dennis was smoking a cigarette when I approached. I was glad to stand down wind of him so I could enjoy the smell of the smoke, having not had a cigarette in almost two months. Because I wanted to smell the smoke, I found myself getting within that “too close” range where you have to acknowledge the person that you’re near. I asked him how he was doing and he said his toes were cold. I told him my toes were cold too. Having bonded over cold toes, we proceeded rapidly into conversation.
We were both waiting for the 130 bus, standing under the small enclosure that pretends to provide shelter but does little more than stifle the strongest gusts of wind. It was 18 degrees outside and the winds were sweeping the snow around the bus stop with a fury.
Dennis spent several years in the Air Force seeing the world and serving his country. Today, Dennis spent 20 minutes standing outside in the blowing snow telling an abbreviation of his life story to a complete stranger. It seems that Dennis’ life has fallen apart. I told him my life has fallen apart too.
Through many flip flops in life, 2 marriages, being a widower, kids, drugs, cross country moves, and more, Dennis finds himself unemployed and living at the mercy of a man who took him in, rent free. He does his best to help around the house, as he says “to earn my keep.” I tell him that I’m in a similar situation. It turns out we have more than cold toes and fallen apart lives to bond over.
This time, he says, there was far less support when things went to hell. Things have gone to hell before, but this time, it doesn’t feel like there’s a future. I tell him I don't feel like I have a future either.
At long last, the bus finally arrives and we climb into it's warmth. I sit down near Dennis and we continue chatting. It turns out that someone gave him the winter clothes he was wearing for Christmas. I told him I was wearing a hat and gloves someone had given me for Christmas. Together we decided that both of us got the best Christmas presents ever.