cirrusSo I’m walking along, trying to keep my head down, you know. Just minding my own business. Had a long day and it’s getting late and it’s really cold – you remember how cold winter was – so I’ve got my coat all done up and my neck tucked in. It’s my hands which get the worst. What was it again? Raymond’s syndrome, or Reynold’s syndrome, or something, anyway. But I’ve got these gloves on, these proper thermal gloves, they’re supposed to be, only they aren’t doing much because my hands are already frozen. That’s what happens. Leave your hands in the cold for too long, and they start to go. It’s to do with circulation. They just go.

Anyway, I just wanted to get back, you know? Winter took the steam out of everyone. I mean I had the divorce in July, and that took the steam out of me, but it was nothing compared to winter. Just the idea, just getting up in the morning and seeing the frost on the window. It wears you down. And everyone feels it. Everyone else. They try not to complain, but you can see it in their faces. They just want it to end already. So I’m walking home, got my hands in my pockets but it’s not helping, and the wind’s blowing in my face, not hard, but enough to be annoying.

Then this guy turns up. At first I just keep on walking. Don’t want to stop, don’t want to know. I could already tell what was up with him. Some old deadbeat, just like the rest. Only thing was, when he started walking backwards in front of me and I had a proper look at him, he looked pretty young. So there was that. But otherwise he was just like the others. I can’t remember what he looks like now, but I can remember his coat. Thinner than mine. Actually, I don’t even think it was done up.

And he says to me something about society. Just like the others, the worst of them. I’m not really listening and he’s not trying to stop me, just walking backwards ahead of me, but then I think to myself, I’m going to be back home in a few minutes and this guy sure as hell isn’t going to be around when I do. So I stop. I stop and I tell him that if he doesn’t leave, I’ll call the police. Not sure why I said police, I could’ve just told him I’d slug him one, but I guess my hands were so numb I couldn’t even say it without sounding like I didn’t mean it.

He stops, anyway. He stops and his hands were out before, waving around in front of me, but now they’re in his own pockets and we’re just standing there, face-to-face, and I’m thinking I really am going to slug him one if he doesn’t step aside, but before I can do anything he says something, really low but clear – I forget exactly what – but it had something to do with how man’s place was out here. That’s what he said. He said man belonged out here, and he kind of, with his shoulders, gestured left and right, and I looked around and I think I was about to laugh, only it wasn’t funny, just stupid.

I said out here? Out here in the freezing cold is where man belongs? Sleeping next to some concrete slab trying to shield yourself from the wind? And here’s the funny thing. I didn’t say it because I was angry, or cold, or wanted to get home, or because I thought the guy was a jerk. I said it because it’s what I wanted to say. You know? I didn’t even think about it. It just came to me. I said to him man’s place is in a nice home with a warm fire and a good meal, and I didn’t say it to hurt him. I said it because I meant it.

But here’s what I’m really trying to get to. The man, he was looking at me, and I thought for a second maybe he was going to go for me, only I think I thought that because of myself instead of him. But what he did, what he really did was he took one of his hands out of his pockets, and it was red raw, like mine get, only worse. But he took it out, and very slowly raised it up, and all the while I was looking at it and he must have known he had my attention. And it stopped for a second about level to his head, and then, very slowly, he raised it even higher, and tilted his head back, and I didn’t want to take my eyes off him but it sort of happened instinctively, and for a second, just for a second, I looked up and I saw this cloud moving across the sky, and when you think of clouds, you usually think of these big, fluffy things, only this was thin and wispy, as if it was hardly there at all.

I looked back down at him again, and he was already facing me. I think I wanted to check my pockets, or look around, or both, but I didn’t because it felt like I didn’t have to. And just when I got that idea out of my head he said to me this word. Cirrus, he said. I never heard it before and I thought he was just babbling now, and then I thought maybe it was his name and he was introducing himself – how the hell did I know? – but either way he stepped aside and crossed the street. I watched him go. He went down some lane and that was the last I saw of him.

I got back home and the first thing I did was get on my computer and try to find out what that word meant. And it took a while because I kept spelling it ‘serous,’ you know? Like serious. So it came up with all sorts of results that didn’t make any sense. But then I searched for ‘serous cloud’ and it came up with this new word, cirrus with a C, and there were these pictures of the same sort of cloud he’d shown me earlier. So that was it. Cirrus.

I don’t know who that guy was and I doubt I’d be able to recognise him. All I remember is that he looked a little younger than the rest. You know? A little softer. That winter went on and on and it got a whole lot worse before it got better. If he was really out on the streets, I guess someone like him probably didn’t make it. But it’s not my business. I keep my head down. Only thing is, I keep going back to one thing. Keep thinking to myself I should have done one thing. I should have said to him, I should have taken off my coat and said, if man’s place is out here, you better have this.

About Hasen Hull

Hasen Hull lives in London. His work has appeared in Dirty Chai, Flash Fiction Press, Praxis, Microfiction Monday and elsewhere. He enjoys photography and long journeys.

Hasen Hull lives in London. His work has appeared in Dirty Chai, Flash Fiction Press, Praxis, Microfiction Monday and elsewhere. He enjoys photography and long journeys.

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