I’d never realised how difficult it would be to live in cold weather.
Our small hamlet in South Florida hadn’t seen snow in the past 20 years, and I’ve been alive for only 14.
I don’t own a coat; I’ve never found use for one. So here I am now, trudging my way to the Goodwill bin outside the church at the opposite end of village from me; and as I walk, I wonder whether it will be thirst, starvation or the cold which will get to me first.
My feet stumble on the rocky sidewalk; I throw out my hands just before the curb hits my head. Lady Tyche didn’t seem to favour me as much as the rest of her children, those who lived in their warm, comfortable, cosy houses, those who wouldn’t glance twice at a teenager struggling to find a place to sleep, and perhaps get some food.
The world is pretty messed up.
At least there’s one living being that cares for me.
And there he is now, wagging his tail, one of his hind legs permanently bent back by a major fracture. His coat looks rugged, he has cuts all across his body and his bones are clearly visible from malnutrition.
I kneel down and call him, and he comes barking joyfully and clambers on to me, licking my face with great vigour.
I know I have to get up, but his body is warm, and pressed against mine and for a second, just for a second, the world seems a little less harsh.
We have a sort of special bond; after all, we were both dealt similar cards in life.
But eventually, I do get up, and he follows me, limping, towards the edge of town, where the sun lays, hanging just above the horizon, coating everything in a golden haze, leading many to falsely assume that everything’s okay, we’re gonna be fine, etc, etc.
Nobody knows the truth until it hits you in the face.
We walk down the now muddy path anyways, our views glamoured by the joy of being together. We could be a stock picture, a boy and his dog silhouetted against the setting sun, a picture of happiness.
If only they knew the truth.
There are less and less people on the street now; they are going home before the daylight ends, before the dark and mysterious night takes over.
But in the same night people fear, I find solitude and peace.
Finally, and it had to happen, my legs can’t take it anymore. I collapse in a heap just as the first stars start to twinkle in the sky. My furry companion lies down beside me, both of us shivering from the cold.
I wrap my arms around him in a hug, and close my eyes. If I have to go down eventually, this is a good way as any. Above us, the moon rises, huge against the meagre stars, and shines upon the world.
The night has come.