These last few damp, bluish-gray days are the kind that Callum likes most. He gets up early to feel ahead of the game. In his narrow kitchen, he rewarms and swallows down half a cup of coffee, rinsing the ring out of the cup afterward with a splash of cold water. He does this set of movements with his right hand – the other arm is just a half-limb, ending above the crook where his elbow had once been.
After dressing, Callum clips the old leather leash onto his dog's collar. The dog has been shadowing Callum ever since he rolled out of bed, breaking away only to eat or to scratch violently at the back of his speckled gray ear. Callum wriggles his feet into the canvas slip-on shoes left on the mat by the door. Outside, on the step, the dog presses past his legs and stretches in the cool morning air.
They jog up the flat blocks. At the intersection, where there is a shoe repair shop and a little café, the light turns yellow, then red. Callum scans the front pages of the newspapers displayed outside the café. Sometimes he ties the dog to the rusted post by the door and slips inside for an espresso instead of drinking the weak, grainy stuff he makes in his own kitchen. When he does go in, the barista behind the counter is always the same: a spare dark-haired girl, with a soft voice and pretty features.
"Do you want a punchcard?" she always asks, even though he has told her, several times, that he already has one, and when he holds it out to her it is creased and full of holes.
There have been days when she is the only person he talks to. The other days, when he goes to the bookshop in the late morning and works until locking up at seven, he at least has Ames and the customers. Though, to be fair, Ames only speaks to Callum when the register jams, or when he's going out for lunch, or when the display window needs to be switched. Last week, Callum changed the display to feature books with white covers. Pure white, like the start of a dream. Ames stood outside the shop, watching him, biting the tip of his thumb nervously.
"Well," he had said, coming back in, the bell on the door ringing, "It's different, I'll give you that much."
In front of the café, the intersection light flips to green. They cross the street. A child coming from the opposite direction, tagging behind his parents, stares at Callum's bisected sleeve. Callum picks up the pace, trying to get away from that feeling of wanting to turn around and go back home. Finally, the edge of the university campus comes into view. With its open lawns and winding brick paths, it's the closest thing to a park near his apartment. Morning classes are in session, and there are only a handful of students out.
They enter through the northeast entrance. The dog is pulling him, so he lets the leash uncoil a few feet off his wrist. They trot past a row of low-roofed administration buildings, then take the wide steps that spit them out into a grove of Yoshino cherry trees.
He's surprised to see that they're in bloom. Just last week, there was hardly a speck of pink. Callum decides that he'll come back with a camera tomorrow, if he can manage to find it. He'll wake up early, get dressed in his slow and steady way, and come over to campus again. All he needs is a moment, and then they will be his forever.