"It's cold out here today, huh?"
"Yeah. Sure is."
"You waitin' on the 8:30 bus too?"
"Yeah, me too. So much cheaper ya know? Than uh. Than driving a car everyday."
"I'm Mike, by the way."
"Nice to meet you Clara. I don't uh, suppose you smoke?"
"OK, that's alright. That's cool. I'm trying to stop but you know how hard that is."
"So where do you work?"
"Oh yeah, me too. I work at the bank. Bank teller. I know I don't look like one, but I've got clothes in my bag here."
"You got a boyfriend?"
"Aw, that's a shame. You're a pretty girl. Very pretty girl."
"You know, my wife- God rest her soul - she used to tell me if you ever see a pretty girl and you talk to her I'm gonna leave you. She was joking, but I always feel weird talkin' to pretty girls nowadays. Even though she's gone now."
"Sorry to hear that."
"Oh she's been dead for years now, Clara. It's OK. I'm still young, I mean- hell. We never even had kids."
"I know, I know- I talk too much. I'm actually kinda glad I don't have any kids, I lost my job for awhile there. So glad now though, I get to go the bank and finally get some money."
"Yeah, it's tough out there."
"Real tough. Real tough."
The bus pulled up, and stopped. The two boarded, Clara sitting away from Mike.
"Hi, how's it goin'?"
"Doin' pretty good, I'm Mike."
"Well hi Mike, I'm George."
"Nice to meet you, George."
"Nice to meet you, Mike."
"Where you headed?"
"Oh, headed down to the construction site on fourth for that new building. Work down there on building shit."
"That's got to be a great job there, George."
"Oh it is, it is. When I'm in work at least, ha ha."
"Well, you're an experienced man. Sure you've been around the site before and had plenty of years experience."
"Actually I was just a handyman in my spare time, I used to work in an office and they made me retire. But you know how that is. Is that a military bag ya got there?"
"Yeah, sure is."
"Man, I salute your service good sir."
"Thank you, but I never actually served. My wife did."
"Well thank your wife when you get home, for me."
"Will do, George. Sorry to say, but this looks to be my stop. You have a good day."
"Oh you too there Mike."
The air was cold that morning as the sun rose. Mike walked along the street, saying hello to everyone who walked by. He stopped at a coffee shop.
"Hi, can I help you?"
"Yes, can I just get a small black coffee and a blueberry muffin."
"Sure can, that'll be $4.15. What's the name on that?"
"Alright, it'll just be a sec. We have to make a fresh pot."
"Take your time. I'm in no rush today."
"Usually everyone is."
"Well, uh...Katie- I'm not. You have beautiful eyes by the way."
"My wife had eyes like yours."
"Well I'm sure she's a beautiful woman."
"Oh, sorry I forgot to get you your muffin. I'll be right back."
"Again, take your time."
"Here's your fresh coffee, and here's your blueberry muffin. You have a wonderful day."
"You too, Katie. You have the best day of your young life. Stay in school if you're in it. And if not...find something."
"Oh, and uh- there's the bank right down here right?"
"Yes, it's right next to the federal building."
"Thank you, Katie."
Mike walked out eating his muffin. It wasn't warm, but tasted good walking along in the cold morning air. There in the distance, he could see the bank he was going to. On top sat the clock, 9:01 AM.
Business was just starting as he entered the building.
"Excuse me?" he asked a bodyguard.
"Do you have a public restroom?"
"Yeah, there's one right over there."
"Thank you. You have a good, safe day sir."
Mike walked into the bathroom, past the urinals and into a stall. He put his bag down and sat down on the toilet seat. He put his hands over his face, rubbing his forehead. He let out a sigh, and tears fell down his face.
He walked out of the bathroom. He walked out of the bank. He walked down the street and looked at the clock. 9:11 AM. He kept walking. He walked past the coffee shop, the bus stop he got off at. And soon he found an alley he slipped into.
He threw up his blueberry muffin and small coffee. He sat there crying at the beginning of an alley. In the distance there was no clock. In the distance there was only smoke.
Mike wiped the tears away from his eyes. He took out a picture from his pocket. A woman in military uniform, hair pulled back. He moved his hand over it, looking at it. Remembering. In the reflection of the glass, he could see the smoke raising high into the air.
In the distance he could hear sirens.
He put the picture away, and walked back to the bus stop he got off at. He stood with others, ignoring the sirens and the smoke he could see in the distance.
"Sure is cold out here today, huh?"