The man avoided the eyes of the other passengers as he stepped up into the bus. A few sniffs punctuated the quiet vehicle. Averted noses took a sudden interest in the bleak and grey weather outside. He shuffled in, moving towards the back of the bus to try to be less noticeable. A familiar face peered towards him and broke his furrowed brow out of its downward angle and into its long laugh lines.
"Hey Jim! How ya been doin'?"
Others forgotten, Jim responded in kind. The warmth of his response as warm as the heating vents humming overhead. Their conversation was mixed into the ambient noise of the engine, shuffling newspapers, and mothers cooking over their infants. But it was an island among the icy stares and lifted noses of the passengers.
Jim's heavy jackets, opened for the first time in days, stank heavily of the dirt and foliage he made his bed in each night. Sweat and raw human odor was viscously flowing from him with each movement and turn. If not for the familiar face, he would have curled into the warmth of the seat and done his best to sit still. Praying to God to turn eyes from his shame and deliver him from the staring mothers who put their arms around their children defensively at the meer sight of the homeless man.
Today was different though, today a friendly chance encounter gave him armor. Today he was on his way to clean up for the first time in months, finally having saved enough money for the bus ticket and for a single night in a local hostel. Today he would reset the clock on those judgemental eyes. Jim smiled at his friend, and for once, looked forward to tomorrow.