Somehow we always pick the very cold days to go out into the city. It was freezing that day. But it had to be done. I had run out of detergent and she needed eggs; we were planning to bake brownies for a friend's birthday that evening. The same friend had once told us that there was a Trader Joe's not too far away that was more well-stocked and significantly cheaper than the department stores closer to campus.

It was on the first bus that we realized that neither of us had remembered to bring gloves. The unusually mild Minnesotan winter that year had spoilt us, making us complacent in a land where every warm layer counted.

We waited at the bus stop where we'd switch buses for a while, rubbing hands and stamping feet. I pulled my phone out and checked the time. The bus wouldn't be arriving for another twenty minutes. It was too cold to sit around and the shop was only a few blocks away so we decided to get there on foot. 

Bad decision. 

After getting slightly lost and then getting back on track (but nowhere near Trader Joe's yet) we were cold and miserable. Giving up, we rushed to the first, tiny grocery store we saw. 

The walk back, however, was much worse. Since we were carrying plastic bags, there was no was we could keep our gloveless hands in our pockets to provide them some semblance of warmth. 

A few minutes of walking later, she stopped in her tracks, asked me to hold her bags for a minute and looked at her hands. 

"I can't feel them," she said. I looked at them. 

They were red and clawed. 

"Try moving them." We still had half the walk and a whole bus ride left. 

"I can't." She looked worried. 

We glanced around and decided to go to a small coffee shop a few feet away. 


We put our bags down and took seats and waited. After a few minutes, her hands didn't seem to be getting better. I could see panic in her eyes. We walked up to the counter and and she told a concerned bearded barrista what had happened. Without a pause, he filled a large paper cup to the brim with hot water and told her to hold it. 

All this while a man had been standing behind us. He cleared his throat and I turned around. He was wearing black, had spiky hair, and a wide smile. There was a hands-free phone headset plugged into his left ear. 

"You're at the right place at the right time," he beamed. He grinned at our nonplussed faces and gestured at the table behind him. A motley of about fifteen people was sitting, squished at a table that would have been hard-pressed to seat eight. "Today, we're having a conference for alternative healers," he said. "And we're here to help."

Fast-forward five minutes into the future and my friend was standing at the counter, clutching her cup of warm water while everyone at the table sat expressionless with their palms facing her, channeling their positive energy into warming her hands and I was trying my best not to grin. 

Soon the mixture of heat from the cup and the collective positive energy in the coffee shop worked its magic. We picked up our bags, thanked everyone and left, waving away invitations for tea.

Once outside, I smirked at her. "Do you believe?"
"Boston's awesome."
"Oh? I've never been there."
"Yeah, it's great. So livable. I think I might want to live there for a while. Then... I'll go back home."
"That's the first time I've seen you slightly sad about going back."

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