Head on over to Runner's World and treat yourself to Steve Friedman's story: "Bret, Unbroken":
You know what people think. They see jeans too short and winter coat too shiny, too grimy, and think, homeless. They watch a credit card emerge from those jeans and think, grifter. They behold a frozen grin, hear a string of strangled, tortured pauses, and think, slow. Stupid.
You learned too young about cruelty and pity. You learned too young that explaining yourself didn't help, that it made things worse. People laughed. Made remarks. Backed away. So you stopped explaining. You got a job, got a cat, got an apartment, and people can think what they want to think. You built a life without explanation and it was enough.
What people see now, this moment, is a solitary man leaning into the wind, trudging down snow-dusted streets toward a faint, watery dawn.
It's December 20, 2012, almost the shortest day of the year. You have been up since 4:30 a.m. You have eaten your oatmeal and cranberries, and you have fed Taffy the cat and packed your lunch of canned chicken and coleslaw, and you are alone on the streets of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, an industrial town of 7,800 that squats at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Pelican rivers, deep in the woods of the Northern Highlands. It's 2.5 miles, at least part of which you usually run, to Drs. Foster and Smith, the mail-order and online pet-supply colossus where you have worked for almost 18 years. (Warehouse dummy, people think, and they don't know about your college credits or your study of military history or that you speak German, understand a little Russian, and can say "How are you?" and "Thank you, goodbye," in Romanian.)
[Photographs by Holly Andres]