I don’t think I had ever felt as cold before as I did that night. Or since. As I sat huddled on my back doorstep, I cursed myself for being dressed so inadequately for this biting winter night. At first I shivered, gently, and then more vigorously. When the shivering began to subside I knew I could be in trouble if I stayed.
The night was beautiful. Perfectly clear, with a purity and crispness that awed me. It was approaching 2am, two hours since the cab had dropped me back. I didn’t have a mobile phone back then. Not many people did. Desperately I searched my bag for my key. Again. My gloveless numb fingers struggled to function.
I thought about those who spend night after night on the streets and wondered how they cope. How they don’t die. Walking. Walking was what I needed to do. I couldn’t stay on that step. The only choice was to walk. I knew I still had some feet because I could see them, and I managed to stand up on to them. These dainty shoes had seemed like such a good idea earlier. One foot in front of the other. Walk. Walk. Walk.
The world was asleep as I walked the streets. No destination. No plan of where to walk. Despite feeling pathetically sorry for myself, I was also aware of a slight sense of excitement about the adventure I was on; something new to add to my life experience. My tentative first steps turned to brisk rhythmic strides. My legs walked themselves, and I was carried along. I couldn’t allow myself to stop for fear that I might not be able to start again. I knew I was there because I could see the houses and trees passing by, and I could hear the clicking sound of my heels on the ground. And yet I had the sensation of being detached and removed from myself. The extreme tiredness and coldness permeated me and yet belonged to someone outside of me at the same time.
Time speeded up and slowed down and went backwards and jumped forwards. And then I saw the lights and everything stopped. I stopped. The sign said 7-Eleven and it was open. I approached it cautiously, afraid it would disappear in a desert mirage way if I rushed towards it. I took a moment to look at my watch. 6am. The night was over. I could see the coffee machine before I was even through the doorway and I knew it would be the best cup of coffee I ever had. As I was leaving the store clutching my steaming cup of nectar, the words “I found heaven in a 7-Eleven” formed in my mind, and I smiled. It’s all about context.