The socks he had on were thick and woollen and he knew they would keep his feet warm, but they could never insulate his soul against the chill of guilt. He rubbed his hands together briskly and breathed out a cloud of warm breath – a cloud that was neither large nor opaque enough to hide his face from the judgement of the world. Then, sheltering from the wind that could not blow away his troubles, he dug in his pocket (a pocket too shallow to contain all the secrets he carried with him) and pulled out a roll of mints. It took him a few attempts to unwrap them, just as it had taken him a few attempts to leave the house – but this time because his fingers were numb with the night’s cold, a numbness which had no bearing on his (also numb) emotional state. His hand shaking – a simple physical reaction to temperature rather than a sign of the fear he felt – he put a mint in his mouth. Its refreshing taste made his tongue tingle with sensation, but it could not prompt a similar feeling in his life as a whole, which remained torpid and unrefreshed by the cooling spearmint flavour of the powdery tablet.