Outside Looking Inbydysphemist©
The bustling streets of the historic district were filled with people and vehicles on this clear wintry evening. The sting of the wind was subdued by the crowded sidewalks. A cover of snow blanketed the city making it bright and lending a festive air to the coated landscape. The merriment of the holiday season was enough for people to brave the elements and bring the area to life. On a street corner Santa rang his bell collecting money for the Salvation Army. Whenever Santa saw a pretty woman he gave his best laugh, "Ho Ho Ho". A faint holiday melody played from a store speaker some distance up the street. Some people were humming along with the tune. A white horse-drawn carriage slowly made its way down the street carrying lovers snuggled closely under a red blanket.
The specialty shops and restaurants lining the streets were decked out in holiday decorations. Every year the owners tried to outdo each other by creating elaborate displays in their shop windows. This year the most popular display belonged to a novelty toy store. The display was a replica of the historic district in lights with a small trolley car moving through the streets. Several people stopped to look at the display with its mesmerizing lights but most would quickly glance at it as they walked by the window. Many people headed into the stores, some to shop and some to temporarily get out of the cold. I stared at the replica. My eyes traveled the path I just walked, my breath misting up the window. The detail was incredible, yet it was different. The replica was warm and inviting unlike the reality where the cold chilled the body to the bone. Inside the store a young couple holding hands were looking at a large doll house and talking. At the same time they smiled at each other and turned to talk to the store clerk pointing at the house.
The aroma of freshly ground coffee filled the air and caught my attention. Walking toward the coffee shop, a store door opened and a wave of hot air was released and washed over me. I stopped and basked in the warmth before it was once again replaced by the bitter cold. Even outside the smell of coffee was so strong that I could almost taste it. Looking in the window of the coffee shop, it was obvious where most people were taking refuge. All the tables were occupied and everyone had a steaming hot mug in front of them. People were chatting and laughing and quite happy to be inside.
I resumed walking slowly down the street looking into the shop windows as I passed them. In the baby items store I saw a pregnant brunette woman and a raven haired woman looking at baby clothes. The brunette held up a pink outfit and the raven haired woman shook her head emphatically. Both women laughed and the brunette put the outfit back on the rack. I wondered if the baby was going to be a boy. In the bookstore two women in their sixties were browsing through the travel books on display, pointing at the various covers, perhaps planning a trip together to a warm and sunny destination. In the bath and body products store six women of various ages were looking at the different sets of fragrant indulgences on sale at the table up front. Each woman picked up an item and smelled it before putting it back on the table or passing it to someone else. It was like they were conducting some type of experiment. In the electronics store several men were gathered in the television section watching their beloved hockey team play. Their team scored as I watched and the men cheered and gave each other high fives, strangers acting as friends in that moment.
I kept walking trying to rid my body of the chill that had taken permanent residence. My brown coat was old, dirty and torn in some parts. The faint scent of alcohol mixed with the slightly offensive odor of my unclean body emanated from my clothing. I dipped my head, using the lapels of my coat to keep my red cheeks away from the frosty air. I had a worn purple woolen hat on that didn't match the rest of my clothes but it kept my ears from freezing off. My black gloves had holes on almost all the fingers so I put my hands in my pockets to avoid frostbite. The soles of my boots were partly unglued and they made a small flapping sound when I walked. You probably have seen me in this area and averted your eyes in disgust, not comprehending how a person could sink so low.
If you had taken a moment to really look at people on the streets, you would have seen children who had run away from their homes to get away from the abusive people in their lives. You would have seen teenagers locked out of their homes by parents who could no longer relate or talk to them. You would have seen those who are mentally ill or alcoholics who once had lives with homes and families but had either lost them or been thrown out. You would have seen people whose lives may have changed in a blink of an eye.
I once had a job in a large company, on my way up the corporate ladder. I also had a nice car and a home in the suburbs. I celebrated the holidays. I used to put up a large Christmas tree in my living room and I decorated the outside of my house with many lights. And then one year the economy turned, downsizing became the new trend. My life and my mental health spiraled downward until it hit the bottom of a bottle. I lost my job, my car, my house, my everything. You looked at me standing out here on the street and you saw a nobody. I used to be a somebody. I used to be just like you.