I first saw the walker on one of my daily neighborhood dog walks ten or so years ago. She is tall – at least 5’ 8” -- thin and fit, with natural blonde hair that falls just below chin length, aged somewhere in her 30s. Wearing a Gore-Tex parka, loose sweatpants and running sneakers, ear buds firmly attached, her head slightly down, she maintained a pace that quickly outdistanced me and the meandering Max, who has a different agenda than cardiovascular health. She did not acknowledge me as most passersby do to each other in my neighborhood. “Must be training for something,” I thought.
Then I started noticing her at different times on the same days, power walking the neighborhood in the early morning, late afternoon, early evening, head bopping and feet pacing, oblivious to the world around her.
As my waist has widened and hair lightened from brown to silver these past 10 years, she remains reed-thin and mostly blonde, her fast pace unchanged. We have yet to make a personal connection. A few years ago when we were within six feet facing each other, I greeted her with a smile and a “hello.” She did not acknowledge me; she accelerated to escape a conversation. Now when we are walking in the street, it seems that that she discreetly moves away as she nears me.
The writer in me has created stories to explain her life: She walks the same path in the neighborhood from dawn to dusk as a self-imposed life sentence for a wrong she committed. She is autistic, anorexic, or maybe suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. She is escaping an abusive spouse or home life. She's an alien who has been marooned here and is walking the streets looking for signs of her people. I consider faking a heart attack or a fall one day when we are near each other to see if there really is a human inside. (Not really, but it would make a great story.)
Max is 12 now, and my husband swears we are not replacing him when he leaves us. (We’ll see about that.) Years from now, I imagine her walking through the neighborhood wondering whatever happened to that nosy dog walker.
What kind of constant strangers do you observe in your life?