Browned tall grass with sparse patches of snow.

It’s late at night, and everyone except the weirdo pervs and the drunks coming home from the few bars that are still open. I used to ride my bike around the neighborhood in the middle of the night, but since winter’s officially here, and refreeze is a thing, I walked instead. Even though we’re due for warmer weather in a couple days, it’s too much of a gamble for the bike, and I’m not risking another accident any more than I have to.

The wind howls outside, coming in from the north, and knocking the temperature down a few degrees. To me, it feels like I might as well live in Antarctica’s Vostok Research Station, haha. I walk across a parking lot for a building that stood empty since the pandemic started. I peeked inside the window, and from what little I could make out, it’s like time stood still. It reminded me of that series, Life After People, in a way. BTW, it airs on the Quest channel for those of you readers who’ve ditched cable.

My run-in with this creepy old turd the day before, and the prospect of seeing him out at that hour is still at the forefront in my head. It’s happened before, and the way he slows down to try to lure me into his car is some major next-level shyt. He’s been doing this to me for the better part of two years, which tells me he’s done this for years, probably since before I was born, and if he’s the age I’ve guessed him at, probably since before my mom was born, too.

No matter. I’m so thankful I’ve got a phone with picture-taking capabilities to get this turd in action. He always bolts at the sight of it, so he’s up to no good for sure.

Camera at the ready, so let’s rock and roll.

I walk up the street, and the new sign casts its harsh light in the darkness. The old sign looked nothing like it, and to be honest, I miss it.

The year is coming to an end, and I’m scared to death of it, and also ambivalent. The end of the year isn’t something I’m looking forward to at all. My feelings of inadequacy seem to linger as I get my steps in. So-and-so’s doing XYZ and ABC, and they’re my age, why aren’t I there yet? Well, good for So-and-so. Fantastic for them, even!

Another thing weighing on me like a millstone is the end of the CARES Act, and resuming federal student loan payments. This is one of the few times, if not the only time, I’ll mention politics on this blog. It’s not the focus, and to be honest, it’s a topic that virtually nobody wins anyway. Even though I’ve got a plan for what’s left of the loans covered under it, less than 5K as of this writing, I’m still scared. All my money this year’s been going to the private loan sharks company, what little I made this year, that is. Every money order I sent them left me with literally nothing in my bank account, and I still feel like it will never be enough for them. They could tell me till they’re blue in the face that I’m ahead, but it doesn’t matter to me. It’s meaningless semantics of zero consolation as far as I’m concerned.

I feel like it’s nowhere even close to good enough for me. I let my anger, fear, and disappointment fuel my walk, and try to focus on something else. Anything else.

I spot a house with their holiday decorations up, and for a brief moment, I feel some semblance of hope this holiday season. It reminded me of the way things used to be, before everything changed. I’m starting to get cold, even through my two sweaters and my winter coat, so I turn back around, head home, and call it a night.

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