Friday, February 5, 2010

The Walking Man

In the old neighborhood, I would see The Walking Man pass by my window, either on his way to the grocery store or on his way back. When he was walking to the grocery store, he would carry immense plastic bags full of cans, plastics, and other recyclable materials. When he was walking back from the grocery store, he would carry equally immense plastic bags full of junk food. But he didn’t simply walk to the grocery store. During the years I lived in that neighborhood and drove through it, I saw him everywhere. Walking.

Many were the occasions I would see him first at one end of the neighborhood and then, miraculously, at the other end of the neighborhood. Somehow, in direct disobedience to the laws of thermodynamics, he had managed to cover a greater distance in a shorter time, walking, than I could cover driving in my car.

I could never figure out how he managed to do that, but that he could and did made perfect sense to me all the same.

And as he walked, he talked. Continually. Except when he saw that I had seen him. Then, he would stop talking. Even when I pretended to be out of sight because I wanted to see if he would start up again. Regardless of any other judgments I had made about The Walking Man, I knew that he was not a man to be fooled. The only time, in fact, that I would ever hear him talk in his presumably continuous manner was when I was caught off guard. Sitting near an open window in my living room. Turning off the lawn mower to move a rock out of the way.

Most often, he talked about a party they were going to have. And whether or not the weather would allow them to have a barbecue. I would wonder who "they" were and where this party and/or possible barbecue might be. I envisioned twenty or so people just like The Walking Man standing in a nearby, yet just hidden, backyard eating hotdogs and drinking beer. And talking.

Two years ago, when we moved out of our old neighborhood, I never thought I would see the Walking Man, again. One day, however, as I was coming out of the new house to pick up the Penny Saver, I saw him coming toward me on the sidewalk. When he passed by, he looked at me and said, "There you are."

The phrase was buried in the same constant narrative about parties and barbecues, but the incorporation of the phrase had caused the narrative to become altered in the most subtle of ways.

Although I was fairly certain that the phrase was more a repetition of someone else’s words than a personal connection upon seeing me there, I nevertheless allowed myself to imagine that I had become a newly arrived stock character in the realm of his words.

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