The icy wind was bullying his face while he walked out on the curb. He loosened his tie, that had been nagging him since the evening had started. The cold had come like a slap in the face, for the summer had refused to leave until late October, like a drunk in a bar with no place to go home to. Because of this, autumn had been short and soft, so the bigger part of the leaves were still on their big mother trees alongside the road, just hanging there, confused by the sudden bitter air. Alongside the broad and steep road there were fancy houses, one even bigger than the other, standing there perky and proud in the middle of the properties. The houses on both sides of the roads were perfectly maintained, and every one of them was as beautiful as the other. If it wasn’t for Nick knowing who lived where, he probably would never find out, for you could never see anyone behind the big windows. The biggest houses were the furthest from the road, and all had these round driveways in front of their doors, which made it easy for the chauffeurs to get back on the road. Nick had looked at the houses thousands of times, had been inside of the bigger part of them, but never experienced this feeling he had walking passed them this evening. All of a sudden he had noticed a certain sadness the villa’s had written over them. And he wondered if it could be true that if your house was big enough to lose each other in it, it would eventually happen to the hearts living there too. As he walked further down the hill he came closer to the city lights, leaving the suburbs behind. The houses in this neighborhood stood closer to the road. These houses were like little children playing at the bottom of the hill, soon going back to their parents, the big and fancy houses further up the road. The lights at the sides of the road made everything look yellow, and for the first time that year he thought of Christmas evening. Every year it was a particular moment that Nick thought of Christmas again. All year he knew that he got this warm feeling in the days before Christmas, but the feeling would fade away as the new year made an entrance. And when the fading would begin, he just couldn’t imagine how it felt anymore. But then, around the beginning of December the feeling came over him again, and that moment was now. He had always liked Christmas. Christmas had always been the happiest day, in his childhood. It always brought them closer together. He was a part of a rather hypocrite Christian family, and so during Christmas, they behaved. It were the days that his parents didn’t fight, and also one of the few days his father didn’t drink as much as he usually did. The first, he later figured, mostly because of the latter. When he got older he saw the irony in this, as he came to realize all other families drank ánd fought more during Christmas days. Behind the windows of the little houses he could see all kinds of people, as he passed them. He saw little children playing with their little dogs, he saw women laughing, and men drinking at their wooden kitchen-tables. He thought of his neighbors, probably still sitting at the table of that evenings dinner party, and probably by now wondering where he was. He thought of the eyes that had suddenly changed, when he told them about this little worker’s bar, next to his father’s house. And he heard himself lying as a response to the eyes about the little worker’s bar he used to go to, and himself laughing when they had told him it had knocked their catholic socks off. He had been walking for quite a while when it began to snow a little. There were only a few, but it were big, heavy flakes, which disappeared immediately when touching the ground. He thought of himself as such a heavy snowflake. Now and then a car came by, and now and then he heard music from the houses, the houses that were so close together as cozy as a little kittens in their nests. At some point his legs began to feel heavy, and because of the lack of the warmth of a coat the cold was becoming unbearable, so he put his hand up, and a car stopped. The car smelled of wet grass and cigar smoke. ‘Where to, pal?’ the man dressed in a dark green shirt coughed. ‘Harry’s, sir, the little worker’s bar, down the road.’ ‘Surprised you know it, pal. You don’t really look like someone who’s from here, pal’ ‘A long time ago I was, which means, theoretically I still am, just not sure the neighborhood agrees with me anymore.’ ‘When the accent goes, the simplicity of life leaves with it, pal. Without that, one does not feel at home here anymore, pal’ ‘I guess you’re right.’ ‘Whatcha gonna do at that old man’s bar? If I may ask’ ‘Meeting my friend Al, I always meet Al at Harry’s. ‘ But the truth was Nick could not remember the last time he met Al at Harry’s, hell, he couldn’t even remember the last time he had seen Al. ‘Always a good thing drinking with a pal, always a good thing.’ In the rear-view mirror he observed the taxi-driver. In his eyes Nick saw something he hadn’t see in a long time, but he remembered he had thought of it as weakness. He looked out the window, and saw the yellow light of the streetlights on the icy ground. He saw people walking fast, to warm themselves, and be out of the cold sooner. He saw the fogged windows of the crooked houses. He opened the window a little and inhaled the heavy city-air. The taxi-driver had said he didn’t mind, so Nick lit a cigarette after offering the taxi-driver one. The taxi-driver had thanked him, and looked at him with these eyes that Nick had thought of as weak ones. When he arrived at Harry’s, Al was not there. He ordered a whisky, and seated himself at the far end of the bar. He thought of all the big houses, with all their empty rooms. He stood up, walked up to the juke box, and picked a the jazziest song he could think of, because jazz fitted every kind of goodbye. Even the goodbyes that you hadn’t considered being goodbyes yet. As he walked back the voice of Redding accompanied him. The old man named Harry asked the boy how the world out there had been, in a way that made it seem that he had only been gone for a weekend, while he sat himself down on the stool again. ‘Still playing that rotten song, pal, ain’t even midnight yet.’ Al said, as he stood up from the table behind Nick. The saxophone played, as Nick, Harry and Al drank together. Their eyes were like the eyes in the rearview mirror, Nick thought, they had kindness in them too.