Conversation becomes a refuge from stress and a stream of relentless demands.
The sidewalk is frozen over, though I don't know this until I skate forward several inches. Keeping a bewildered balance, I reach out for the railing that fronts the houses on the street. I hold on and skate along, my good winter boots dancing beneath me. From across the street a man in a yellow coat stands perfectly still and watches.
Children are used to receiving gold stars and scoldings and many other kinds of feedback, and when they get the opportunity to reward or scold others they're usually happy to do so. One child has a carefully calibrated rating system: "That one was good. That one was all right. This one is medium. This other one is medium ok. That one is medium good. That one was badly done, a bad job."
At the school, there's the smell of wood, carpet, and dust, warm armchairs and coats thawing. The narrow hallways are lined with old class photos and sloppy cheerful kindergarten artwork. Upstairs is the library with the window seats and rocking chairs, the sturdy illustrated books propped up on shelves.
At a lecture a man and woman sit in the back, snickering and smirking and raising exaggerated eyebrows at each other when the speaker makes a significant point. Why don't they ask a question instead, openly challenge the speaker rather than conduct themselves with a sort of weaselly contempt?
I leave him by the elevator, where he's tapping at the button, tapping tapping... why isn't it coming? He says nothing, just hits the button over and over, as if he's not sure he communicated his intentions clearly the first time.
The bus trundles down slippery streets, past old cramped houses that shiver under the snow. Inside the bus is warm, and it rocks the passengers back and forth.