The routine from two Decembers ago.


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Stepping out of the shower, you slab Cetaphil all over your dry legs. You wrap layers of clothes one on top of the other: underwear, camisole, favorite sweater, black coat, the red scarf last of all, like a tinsel. The cold exhale follows after the slam of the door and the slippery pavement is now laced with salt. Every step makes a crunch and your nose is red, you don’t have to check to know it really is red. The houses have their Christmas decorations up by now, looking smart and bright in contrast to the greys of the surrounding landscape. The windows offer sneak previews of warmth. You get aboard the bus, meeting the eyes of the man across your seat, instantly recognizable as somebody from the poorer side of town – his feet is laden with bags from Wal-mart and his scent tells you that that shower was from days ago. The universal smell of thrift stores taught you that all human beings have the same universal scent when left to states of disrepair. You give him a half-smile and scroll your iTunes music library for the song of the month (“Misty” by Ella Fitzgerald), wishing him a silent ‘Happy Holidays’ in your head.

At seven minutes, your stop isn’t that far at all. Iowa City is pretty in the chill of the cold even if the bus stop always smells like weed. You return some books to the library at your usual timely fashion, then you head over to the Bread Garden to purchase whipped cream cheese, cans of tomato soup, Hot Pockets, some bak choy. You pay with your debit card, reflecting back on how Malaysia favors paper currency still. You long for coffee, you long for home, but most of all you long for the pronunciation of hard ‘T’s.

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