The homeless man, hunched over and shivering, pulls his thin, tattered coat tight against the icy wind that ignores the brilliance of the November sun. He walks slowly up Broadway, head down, lost in thought, his lips moving in silent conversation with himself.
As if by miracle, the masses flowing up and down the sidewalk part and make room for the pathetic creature, abhorring and avoiding him at all cost. He is seen by them but never acknowledged, his ravaged face reminding them too much of someone they know or might become. It makes them move faster, try even harder, not to see him. He’s not there. It can’t happen to them.
The man picks up his pace as he crosses Central Park South and enters the park. He takes the path to the lake, slips behind the benches, and climbs through the bushes, making his way to the edge of the water. Protected from the cold breeze by the trees and rocks, he takes off his cap and smiles. Enjoying the solitude, he stares off into the distance for a while, into another place and time, but then, as quickly as it came, the smile disappears. A half-forgotten nightmare intrudes on his thoughts. His body begins to tremble and sweat stands out on his forehead. He remembers the strangled cry, the eyes staring up at him in terror and surprise, and finally, touching the cold, dead hand—dead because of him. He scrambles to his feet and wipes the image from his mind. He has learned to live with his demons. This is just a temporary lapse. The man climbs back up the path and, with renewed purpose, strides out of the park. He passes a news stand, and as his eyes run over the magazines and papers on display, he reaches into his pocket and takes a long swallow from a bottle wrapped in a plain paper bag. The touch of a feminine hand on his arm startles him.
“Is that you?”
The familiar voice is ever so hesitant. His heart in his throat, he turns and faces the woman. She cries out before she embraces him, full of shock and pity.
“My God! It is you!”
They cling to each other tightly, as if letting go will make the other disappear forever.
The man’s stubbly face is wet with tears, but his bright blue eyes are laughing.
His luck has changed, and he knows he is close to winning everything.
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