“I’m jaded, but I think I like it.”

She stood outside in the cold just to feel something. One hand holding a joint, the other shoved in her pocket flicking a penny back and forth. An owl hooted in the distance. Other than that, it was quiet save for the wind whistling in and around the buildings now and then. The tourists had already fled the city for the night.

Her breath swirled around in front of her face as she thought back on the day and the weeks since she’d been here. Numb now, the burn of the smoke in her lungs was the only thing still hot.

So much had changed. She laughed more, but expected less from others. It was her decision alone to be happy or sad, hopeful or despondent. Sometimes she slipped into bitterness without realizing it, but the subtle reactions of those around her directed her back to the path she knew she wanted.

It took her awhile to get here — through feelings and time before coming out jaded on the other side. It was an adventure unlike any other. The new perspective made her grateful for the path. From where she stood, it was clear that life isn’t supposed to be perfect or easy. It’s made sweeter with pain and heartbreak, joy and love.

Footsteps crunched across the icy road from around the corner. He came quickly, presumably to move faster than the frostbite. They locked eyes on his way by. At first she was embarrassed how much of her soul she shared with him in that instant, but he shared, too. Something real.

She threw the end of the joint in the snow and walked home.