The screech of brakes and a honking horn jolted Leo out of his thoughts. No, the car hadn’t nearly hit him. It was braking and honking to avoid a big black Jeep making a late left turn.
Leo only caught a glimpse of the Jeep driver, and had an even briefer flash of possible recognition. He took in his surroundings. He’d walked in ever-widening circles, apparently, because he was near the north end of the college campus, near where he’d lived for a while in his early days in this town, in the basement apartment in a rickety old house. The house was gone, now replaced by one of those small, generic, apartment-and-town-home complexes where everything is painted in tasteful neutrals, and the standard-issue vinyl windows reveal nothing about anyone who might be inside, and the garage doors dominate the cul-de-sac.
Character replaced by efficiency, Leo thought, and wondered sincerely whether that represented progress or not.
The sloppy snow had ceased, and the break in precipitation revealed a bright blue sky. The surrounding hills looked like chocolate cake thickly dusted with powdered sugar. A lone skinny maple tree, planted in an attempt to give the complex something green, wavered in the same cold breeze that had blown the clouds away, at least for a moment.
Since Leo’s feet had brought him back to his past, he allowed his mind to drift to those days, when he’d been young, alone, adventurous, optimistic, and directionless. For some reason, remembering that younger self triggered tears.
Or maybe it was just that brisk wind that made his eyes water.
His vision swam a bit, and in contrast to the watery view, one thought came into clear focus.
Of all the things he missed about his youth, being alone was not one of them.
And of all the things he could not fix about his life now, perhaps being alone was not one of them, either.
The clouds blew back, the wet snow started up, and Leo turned his feet back toward Pine Street.