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Think about how many places you and your boots have traveled to (and from) together this winter.

Think about how many cold breezes your coat and hat and scarf and gloves protected you from.

Think about how many times you were kissed while you wore your favorite sweater.

Think about how many times you laughed in your long thick socks.

Yes, winter comes and goes. Yes, sometimes it seems like all we need is a change of seasons.

But just think, next time you stamp the snow from your boots, about how many different places that water has been.

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I see two women walking together on the side of the road as I drive past, and I wonder if the woman waving her hands is talking and talking and talking too much, and if the other woman is regretting inviting her friend to exercise with her on this chilly late summer afternoon, since that’s what she really wanted to do, exercise, not walk slower than she normally would and listen to all of her friend’s ¬†updated life struggles.¬†“My cat just won’t stop staring out the window,” I imagine her saying, waving her arms as she walks, pretending that she wants to exercise, too.

And now the women are in my rearview mirror, I can look back and see them, and see the leaves turning orange or brown on the trees they walk under.

People are already complaining about the cold, about how it’s almost fall and the weather is colder than it was a month ago, and I think about how this always happens, every year, everything. Hot in the summer, cool in the fall, cold in the winter, with snow, and the same fetching of the dusty snow shovel from the basement.

I look in my rearview mirror at the beautiful orange leaves and I think about how I’ve seen this all before, seen those women before, or women like them, had those same experiences, talked about that same cat, seen those same leaves change from green to orange to brown, raked them into piles and jumped in them, or left the piles to rot. Again and again, year after year.

“It’s so cold!” she says, another faceless woman in my mind, pulling on the sweater she hasn’t worn in nine months.

Winter will come. Snow will fall. Salt trucks will melt it away, or try, or make ice patches that are worse than the snow was.

Again, again, of course. And of course the people will go on, dealing with seeing their breath in the air on cold winter mornings, plowing through snow drifts and piles of paperwork and gallons of hot coffee. What else can they do?

I smile when I don’t know what to say, and I think you understand me. Our eyes are dancing across the tabletop, never meeting. I stare at you as your gaze is focused towards the window, people watching. I look, too. I wonder if we see the same things. Outside, an old woman in a long black coat is smoking her cigarette. She bends down and snuffs it out underneath her shoe. She’s standing right next to one of those cigarette bins. I look back at you so I don’t see what she does next, if she leaves the cig there or if she takes care of it. You still don’t look at me. I tell you about my day, about my week. You listen. I look away while speaking, to see if you look at me. You do, but not for long enough. Not in a way that makes me think you like me back. Then you look away again and I’m back to staring at your brown eyes. They look happy. They smile when you do, when you don’t know what to say to me. I look through the window again. The woman is still standing there. I wonder if she’s waiting for a bus. There’s no bus stop there. I wonder what she’s waiting for. It’s cold outside. Her coat is long and dark, like Winter. I look back at you and think that it’s going to be a long and dark Winter again.