When I was five, I thought that breath on a cold day was a person's soul leaking out. The first cold foggy morning I can remember, I stepped out of Mommy's car and saw the white cloud whoosh out before my face. Never before had I been so aware of how many times I let air out of my lungs.
I ended up with my hot little hands cupped over my mouth and smushing down my nose lest any soul trickle out through my nostrils. Mommy and I waddled through the black parking lot, each of us far to busy to notice each other. She was busy with her list and her cell and her keys and her purse. I was busy with my soul.
The storefront towered up above me in huge concrete columns that were much too high to be worth any notice. Mommies and children milled around the carts; some were rushing and some chatting and some were doing both at the same time. I was left to the side while Mommy went off to wrestle out one of the twisted metal beasts.
It was then that I noticed the souls spilling out through the strangers' lips. Each burst of laughter was punctuated by a great white puff. I pressed further towards the column, away from them, imagining that the bits of their leaked out souls were brushing against my arms and ankles like wispy feathers from a dress-up bin left out in the snow.
My imaginings grew more grotesque and I thought that the bits of soul looked like bits of people. Like little chopped up bits of their souls' toe falling from their lips. Arms and legs and noses rubbing against me were invisible and white and ghastly and scary.
I could bear no more of my own mind and began to cry. Mommy turned from the other mommies looking harassed. She came and grabbed my arm and asked me what was wrong. She had to drag me away, my hands sill clamped protectively over my mouth, with the explanation that the babysitter was to never tell me silly ghost stories again because they weren't good for people my age and there was not need to fill my head with unimportant fluff.
And now here I am, puffing clouds of breath through a foggy, grey street. I don't have time to notice the equally busy people I pass by day to day on my dreary commute. I don't even have time to reply to the congratulations card my aunt sent me. I'm much too busy. Busy with important things, like my keys and my cell and my shoes and my loans and my purse. I don't have the time or the fear to worry about the soul leaking through my nostrils in each passing breath. It just doesn't matter.