I also saw in those eyes a quick glimpse of this man's life. He was ill, mentally, and he was suffering. But there was nothing I could do, and I knew that.
I didn't see him for a few days. I figured he had found a shelter somewhere and was staying out of the cold-the temperatures had dropped well below -40 as it tends to do in Fairbanks.
Then one morning as I was preparing for a shift change he came in. Again on a night that Randy wasn't working. He walked straight to the coffee pot and stood there.
"Go ahead," I said.
He wasted no time.
Part of my job was throwing away the old hot dogs and preparing new ones for the morning. So I headed over to the hot dog cooker and started to gather them up. I stopped.
"You hungry?" I asked holding out a few hot dogs. He took them without saying a word.
He stayed for awhile. My replacement came in and saw the man standing there. She walked over to me, "Who is that?" A transient, I told her.
She looked at his hands and saw how raw and chapped they were. "Have him rub this on his hands," she said, handing me a jar of Carmax. I did, and then clocked out and headed home.
Friday came. Randy was once again at the store with me. There was a buzz in the night, the type that makes you realize something is going to happen. You can almost smell it in the air.
We were particularly busy this night. The weather had broken and people of all ages were out enjoying the warmth. Odd that 30 degrees above zero was warm enough to draw everyone out of their homes. But when you spend a week inside hovering around the heater you jump at the chance to go.
As midnight approached I saw the transient coming up to the store. We were exceptionally busy so I knew there was nothing I would be able to help him with. Randy saw him too and for some reason got angry. I never understood why.
The transient came in and went to the coffee. I nodded my assent and he poured a cup. Then he pulled out a cigarette and lit up.
"Hey!" I said,"You can't do that in here!"
I quickly ushered him out the door.
I apologized to the throng of customers and continued ringing up orders. Randy moved out from behind the counter and made his way outside. "I'll be right back," he said.