It is freezing. The kind of cold that makes me not want to take a shower no matter how much I need it. You’d think that after all these years, the cold would be something I would get used to, but no. The floor in the bathroom just kills me. Why I don’t wear slippers is beyond me. I sit on the toilet checking my WeChat. I put on my long johns and the rest of my clothes. I finally go outside after drinking a French pressed coffee. I refuse to buy a coffee machine around here because they just cost too much. Not as if the French press is any cheaper, but it somehow feels more justified. The wind is blowing as it does in winter, and the cigarette doesn’t help, although I seem to think that it will. The sun is shining with a glaring intensity. Leaves are beneath my feet and cat poo isn’t far off. The neighborhood dog doesn’t blink an eye as I pass. Nevertheless, I am shivering, mostly because of the draft flowing up my legs in the spaces between my low socks and the bottom of my thermal underwear. I can’t get used to drying my clothes three or four days in advance either. I’ve run out of heavy socks and am wearing my summertime ones. My thick socks are still hanging on the string outside. I also refuse to buy a clothes dryer here because they are just too expensive. A clothes line is much cheaper. Is anything here inexpensive anymore? I drop two kuai into the tin container outside of the youtiao makers shop on Xixi Road, and get a hot one without saying a word. The street is being dug up once again, and my shoes get splattered with mud as I carelessly step on a paving stone the wrong way.
On to Hangda Road where I give a man a fiver for a pink chilled bottle of Vitamin water from the unplugged fridge without uttering a single word. Somehow, drinking this makes me feel healthy although it doesn’t add anything to my warmth. Folks are vying for taxis although it is nine in the morning, and they all should be in work already. I watch as a bus drives by, full of people with blank looks on their faces. Walking toward Shuguang Road, I wonder why the French Maples always seem to be shedding their bark. A man’s erhu is sitting idly before him, but I still drop a small note into his box. Usually he is pulling his bow, but it is cold. A little kid is strolling down the street with her grandma. Shouldn’t she be in school? Though I walk quickly, I barely make it across the road before the walk light starts blinking orange. Past the library, I am finally on Baishaquan. The street sweepers are making piles of leaves. Fumbling for my keys, and then, careful not to break one in the cold lock, the door opens. Spring, please come!
by Tim Hoerle