Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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Walking down Young and Bloor, or for that matter any busy area, you follow the general code of the street: look up, never make eye contact and don't glance at "them", otherwise referred to as the homeless. The justification for this is not very hard to find: they're just lazy, they want too much, why don't they just go to a shelter? And best of them all, what can I do? So on that unbelievably cold Sunday afternoon, walking alone on the street, keeping my eyes out for cars, but casually pulling them down at an unsightly scene, I continued just fine. The only problem however was, that although I came alone on the subway and although I walked alone on the street and although I would probably go home alone, after my boxing week shopping was all finished, that in reality I wasn't alone, not alone at all.

In reality I was surrounded by at least a few hundred strangers at one time, half of them carrying big black briefcases, another few just shopping around like me, and the last tenth of them probably being the ones I had become most accustomed to avoiding. You know the ones, asking for just a little money to get some food, maybe some clothing or a hat and mitts for the soon coming winter. And what did I do? Gave them a bit change of course, a small sigh and a sad smile along with it, and walked off towards the nearby Taco Bell to enjoy Big Fill Combo #5, after all I'd been shopping for quite a while.

Being completely filled now I sighed, one of those sighs when you're feeling all nice and full and happy and warm and everything seems pretty good. It didn't last for too long though. I ventured back out into the chaos of the outside. It was cold. The wind had now completely frozen my ears and the sides of my thighs were numb. My fingers freezing because my mitt had an unbelievably big whole in it, which I casually covered with the shopping bag I had been carrying around. My goal "" get to the subway! But I was on one side of the street, the station on the other, a long jumbled mass of cars right between us, and the crosswalk too far. There was nothing I could do but wait. So that's what I did, hoping some driver out there would have the courtesy to stop for just a few minutes so that the cold wouldn't eat up the rest of my body. I didn't find any courtesy though. The cold had become a part of me now. I could feel it inch towards my toes, even though I was wearing a double pair of socks. The tip of my nose no longer felt as if it existed and my lips became plastic. But no one stopped, why should they after all? I wasn't their family or friend or even acquaintance, I was just a stranger. I would be there for a long time.

"Excuse me, a little change, Ma'am? Ain't eaten all day" Another one! I couldn't give money to all of them, could I? There was one in front of The Gap and the other on the last street, if this continued I would be completely broke by the time I got home.

" Sorry" I said. That should've been the end of it. It wasn't.

"Please Ma'am, please, I'm hungry, hungry. Very hungry." He took in two deep breaths. He continued to breathe that way. After every "please" there followed this strong raspy type breath as if even the Oxygen he forced inside had already rejected him. He gasped for more air. He took in more breaths. Another breath, this one not from his nose. I don't think his nose could've done the job. He was persisting. Could he do that? None of them do that. He was getting closer.

"I'm sorry but I don't have any change," I said.

Why should I give it to him? He's just a stranger. I gave the others how much I could. I did my part; I need the money too. GO! JUST GO! I thought my mind would burst, first because of the gnawing cold, second because this stranger wouldn't leave and third because the way he breathed! He wouldn't give up.

A gust of wind came. The stranger took his hand out from the hole in his jacket and brushed away the stringy dirty blond strand that covered his blood-shot eye. His hand was not normal. It couldn't be normal. Where were his nails? Where was his skin? There was no skin on his hand. He had no skin. All he had was an unnatural blue wrinkled plastic, covering very thinly, the dark green veins protruding from them. I looked at it again, where was his skin? Where was the air that should nourish it? Where was the blood that should warm it? It wasn't there; the cold had eaten it. He breathed in once more. I felt sick. I gave him five bucks. I ran into a store.

I came out after half an hour. Why was I so upset? He was a stranger, I didn't know him, he didn't know me. It shouldn't bother me"¦that's life.

That was life. Me, him and the rest of the world, we're all in it together...but only as strangers.

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