She obviously lives nearby because I’ve seen her walking down my street so often. And that’s why I notice her. She walks in the street, right down the middle, never on the sidewalk on either side. The sidewalks here are mere extensions of the curbs. There’s no setback from the street, no intervening easement or strip of grass. They lie perhaps twenty feet from the street’s center line, but still she walks in the street. Always.
I can’t tell how old she is. She could be in her 20s or 30s, but its difficult to tell; she might even be a teenager. She always wears the same little billed cap and sunglasses. She walks slowly, deliberately, and stiffly upright. Her head never moves, as though she’s staring intently at a distant point. She never looks left or right.
I noticed her again a few days ago. Not so much because she was there, but because three minutes after she disappeared heading south, she reappeared going in the opposite direction. Perhaps the corner, two houses down, was the end of her route and she turned around there. Yet most people would go around the block, walking a circular course. I see a lot of neighbors reversing course, but they’re usually walking to and from the mailboxes at the north end of the block.
I imagine lots of different things about her. Apparently she doesn’t have a job outside the home because she’s usually out during the day. She could be out walking just for exercise, but you expect someone like that to either be walking quickly, for fitness, or strolling, looking around at other people, the houses, the barking dogs, etc. She doesn’t do either. She walks slowly, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings. I suppose she could be wearing ear buds and listening to music, but I’ve never noticed a telltale cord. It’s also occurred to me that she might be mentally challenged in some way. That might explain the unnatural gait. Or perhaps she has a physical problem that limits her mobility.
There’s only one other neighbor I always notice. He lives diagonally across the street. I notice him because he walks up to the mailboxes and back, at least a hundred yards one way, in his stocking feet. Not barefoot. Not in shoes of any kind. But in his socks. Who does that!? I’ll bet he catches hell from his wife for that.
I just got back from walking the dog on this, an unusually cool summer day. Mid to high 70s. Couldn’t let a day like that go to waste. No sooner had I left the house than I passed the strange lady street walker. She was still wearing a cap and shades, still walking dead center down the middle of the street. This time she seemed engrossed in a phone conversation. She held the phone in an odd way, almost in front of her face, as though talking into it but not listening.
Then, quite unexpectedly, she glanced my way, smiled, and said, “Pretty dog.”
Suddenly she didn’t seem so strange anymore. And I felt about two feet tall.