I hate being cold.
I grew up in a house that was never warm in winter.
At night, I huddled under a blanket,
waiting for my body heat to warm my little cocoon.
In the mornings, I dreaded getting up for school because
there was that run between the cold air in my
bedroom to the aura of heat radiating from the coal
stove downstairs in our dining room.
School, the site of other tortures, was still a haven
from the cold. I shivered my way to school where
I experienced warmth that was, at times,
almost suffocating. My goal in life has never been to
be famous or successful in the most commonly
recognized meanings of the word;
I've only wanted to be warm in winter.
On the edge of the recent cold wave, I was on my way
to the Circle Theatre, huddled in my own misery,
when I was brought up short by the sight of a person
curled up just a few feet away, asleep beneath a tan comforter.
I was afraid. Should I try to wake her, to see
whether she was OK, or leave her to sleep, without
bringing her into the reality of the cold -
the cold air, the cold concrete, the cold bricks?
Police were nearby, virtually always aware of the stress
around them, so I went on, ashamed of my fear.
I went back the next day and found the woman's pillow
and the blanket on which she slept covered with snow.
She had gone, but her possessions, the furnishings
that made up her sidewalk home, were piled nearby.
She expected to return.
As I write this, the temperatures are again
plummeting into the single digits and below zero.
While I try to make sure I will be warm,
there are so many who are not.
And, damn, I do not know how to end this,
just as I do not know how to fix
the problem of homelessness.