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It is the last day of January, 2002,
seven and a half years that
you have been gone.
Rain has been falling since early morning
icing over everything in a way that is
both beautiful and frightening.
You would hate it,
having always gotten cold so easily;
but it's warm for January,
warm enough that you might never have moved to Atlanta
if the winters had been this mild.

I walk around black puddles and
past trees encased in chrysalises
shades of silver and white in shattered light
and a gust of wind makes me worry that my umbrella will be
taken away from me.
I cross campus.
You would have loved college
even though you hated to study.
I see you in a dozen faces every day that I am here
and it still makes no sense after all this time.

The new Student Union, huge and modern,
is a great place to watch people.
You would never have wanted to leave except to
head off to the Black Swamp Pub for a beer and some eight-ball
but I just can't do that anymore so I get a Pepsi and some heavy poetry.
I sit down and watch the rain and the people
like we used to do at that little beach
all those years ago
but I feel exactly the opposite of how I used to feel then.
Everyone here is beautiful and vibrant and alive
and they seem like they're on a different plane of existence.
Even the chilling gloom outside can't dampen their attitudes
and I think how you were the same way
the last time I saw you.

Away from this and back to the damp cold
I walk past the crowds
until I run into Beth Wander and stop a while
as she lights a Marlboro and tells me about her
The sidewalk fills with herds of energetic students pushing by
and Beth wanders off like everyone else
as I make my way to class.

I stop on my way as I notice someone like you once again
with short blond hair and huge hazel eyes
and I know it's not you but I also know
this is as close as I'll ever get again
and when he's gone I look around and the weather
leaves me feeling the same way -
the same as I felt that day I learned that
you were gone.


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Cold, by Paul Cales, © January 2002