February Twenty-Second (October 2019, Week 3, Day 4)
February twenty-second. The date that seemed to dance further away from her whenever she looked at a calendar had, somehow, finally arrived. Galin stood in front of the shrouded mirror in the hallway. Her mother had made this cover and the one for the bathroom mirror. She hadn’t purposely seen her reflection in over a year. Galin reached up to pull the cloth off and froze before her fingers made contact. “After,” she said to the idea of her reflection.
Not seeing herself was easy at home. Galin shrugged into her parka as she made her way slowly down the stairs and pulled the hood onto her head as she entered the lobby. Looking down, she navigated the mirrored room and pushed her way outside to the relative safety of the busy street. Her phone told her she had two minutes to wait for the bus to arrive, so she hustled down to the corner, thankful for the combination of the white snow and the clear sky that made the windows along the way filled with nothing more than glare. Galin wondered, just for a moment, what the trip home might be like today before she pushed those dangerous thoughts out of her mind. “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” she muttered.
Galin shifted in her seat, keeping the old man visible out of the corner of her eye. The waiting room had emptied, person by person, until it was just the two of them. There was something less than normal about him that Galin could feel more than she could explain. After weeks and weeks of visiting this office, sitting in the uncomfortable chairs, reading the magazines that were about as interesting as they were current, this was the first time she’d seen him.
He gave a huge grunt that made Galin jump and look at him directly. The man was older than she’d realized, or at least he appeared to be. His eyes peeked out from between folds of wrinkled, weathered skin and beneath bushy white eyebrows. He clearly didn’t have teeth. His hair was beautiful and lush and perfectly white. Galin found herself transfixed by his face and stared longer than is polite, strictly speaking, taking in everything he presented. The too-snug button-down shirt, the makeshift belt, the pants that were longer than his legs – all of this screamed “homeless.” Even from three chairs away and before she’d braved making eye contact, Galin knew this man wasn’t actually homeless. She’d spent enough nights at the shelter to know that this man had a home of his own.
Galin pulled her gaze down to the magazine, still checking him out surreptitiously. Flipping the unread pages filled with images of people she didn’t know helped her shake the shivers that had started since locking eyes with the man. She noted that he kept his eyes on her, and that he did so without apology or subterfuge, while working to convince herself that all of this was perfectly normal. It had to be.