It was 6:30 p.m. I didn’t have a ride home. The sun was still blazing high in the sky on a steamy August day. Five miles away, my home sat dormant, waiting for my busy mind to fill the empty halls.
“I could call a cab,” I thought. “I could take the bus.” Both required money, something I didn’t have. “I could call a friend.” I thought of the company of another thinking person, and I knew the conversation would be overwhelming to my occupied mind. Talking was something I didn’t want to do. So I resolved the issue at hand and began to walk.
As I walked steadily toward the park, I realized how free I felt. I had no plans, no homework or deadlines, no dishes to do or laundry to wash, I had nothing to cook. I just had to walk. The park had a pond. Across the water was the reflection of a small municipal theater house. I imagined the plays the local children had put on. How all the children had their mother’s piece together costumes from old bathrobes and tin foil, gadgets and gizmos unused at home. It seemed as though only moments had passed as I finished my first mile. By then I was downtown. The noise was slowly mounting. Car and busses filled the lanes. People were abuzz, watching and listening to bands play in the streets and eating at restaurants with outdoor patios.
As I listened to jazz musicians play “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a homeless woman asked me the time. I’d forgotten what time it was that second mile. I smiled to myself as I wondered what the homeless lady needed to know the time for. She didn’t have a job, appointments to feed the meter, meet her family, attend a concert or eat a special priced meal. She was free from obligation, public standards and social norms. For a second I wanted to be her, but then I put my watch away and it seemed like I was living just like her.
Mile three posed some problems. The bank’s digital clock blazed in my eyesight. I could see as the minutes mounted. I finally passed the bank building turning onto a street that held so many memories. I had walked this street every day for an entire year before I moved. Though the season’s changed, the earth worn apartment buildings had remained the same. Even the sidewalk had the same dangerous crack that I had tripped in many times before, at Fourth Street. I was wiser this time as I went around the busted concrete. I looked back at the city skyline. The buildings seemed happy to see the hot sun go down. It needed a rest from its intensity for the night.
Mile four was the bridge. It held walkers, runners, bikers, and watchers above the rushing Mississippi River. I thought about the river how it sprayed an ocean smell into the air. Even the river collected pieces of time as it rose and fell during the day.
An accordion player carried a tune reminiscent of something heard in a French film. I felt like the bridge had transplanted and suddenly I was a in a foreign place. The people passing me giggled as they whispered in French. A small boy carrying a brown paper sack became a bakery child selling baguettes. All the dogs became refined primped poodles while their owners wore berets and smoked long cigarettes. People meeting on the bridge kissed each other on the cheeks and those leaving waved saying, “Ciao.” I drifted back to the Mississippi as the sound of the accordion stopped and there it was that I began the fifth mile.
A college student I had seen on campus was doing homework on a picnic table. I had only remembered him because he was beautiful. He had lines on his face that would one day make him look like a strong older man. He was tall and muscular. His hair and skin were nearly the same color of tan, which made his bright green eyes illuminate his strong face. Each of his papers laid next to each other under a rock to prevent the wind for sweeping away the study guide or term paper. He looked up at me. I could see he was thinking from his furrowed brow. He was beautiful. I continued to make believe meeting him even as I neared my home. I wondered where he lived, how he arranged his life, if he played sports or an instrument. I thought about what his voice sounded like. But then reality crept in along with the weariness as I began to trudge. (Later this year, I Missed Connection-ed him on Craigslist, sadly with no reply. Then again I saw him downtown while I was with another guy. I couldn’t stop him just then to tell him of my infatuation with his monochromatic hues, lanky muscles, and overall strong appearance. I wish I could’ve. Had I, I would have been very content to say I had talked to the man of my dreams for only a bit.)
My bag seemed like a sack of cement as I dragged it behind me. I could see the corner where my house waited. She was ready for company. I finally looked at my watch. Hours had passed and I had changed, but she had not and she was glad to have had me home once again.
It was amazing that I had a thousand conversations in my head without ever speaking a word. To know that I had gone all this time with no obligation, and just by walking I was made new. I slept peacefully that night, knowing tomorrow had no worries of today.
Sometimes we miss the things in life because of cars, busses, bikes scooters. To walk is such an inconvenience. But I’ve realized, all that I’ve ever wanted out of life comes from taking a deeper look at my surroundings. It’s right there in the trees and the people waiting for the bus. It’s the people reading the paper at a café. It’s the bird eating crumbs off the sidewalk. Life is really that simple, as long as you take some time to look.