I am fortunate to have several different routes I can take to work in the morning. I make the decision based on traffic, weather, stops I might need to make on the way, and lately – just to see if I glimpse a particular person.
I started noticing that the same man would be walking along the road at roughly the same time every morning. He’s a cowboy. He’s tall and wears a black cowboy hat. In the winter he wears a black duster. On warmer days he wears a black Colorado Rockies jacket. He’s always smoking a cigarette.
I guess what has caught my eye about him is his complete lack of urgency or hurry about his walk. Every time I see him, he’s walking slowly, taking his time. But not in the way one walks when they are old or injured. It’s an easy-going walk; like he has all the time in the world. He doesn’t look old enough to be retired. It’s 7:45am on a Wednesday and he is strolling alongside a rush hour route without a care in the world. He seems absorbed in his thoughts. He’s never looking around, never taking in his surroundings. He’s looking at the ground in front of him, absorbed in his thoughts. He walks tall, proud and confident.
Why does he walk right along the side of a busy urban thoroughfare? Some areas where I see him there isn’t even a sidewalk. There are so many more lovely and quiet places to walk. But that’s where he chooses to walk – on a homely stretch in front of of strip malls, vacant lots and run-down houses.
I started to conjure up life stories for him. Maybe he’s a resident of the eastern plains of Colorado, but he was brought into the city when his mother’s health starting going downhill and he is staying with her to take care of her. His daily routine to get a break from the reality of the situation is to take a walk.
Or maybe his wife hates that he smokes. Maybe she insists that he go outside to smoke and he ends up taking a walk to pass the time.
Whatever the reason he is out there, I find myself looking for him on my way to work. When I see him I smile and start making up a new story for his life. And on the mornings I don’t see him I wonder if everything is okay, or if life has changed for him and he will no longer be walking that narrow strip of dirt anymore.
Or maybe I’m just late to work.
And then I wonder if someday I will be that stranger to someone else. If I develop a routine and someone notices it, and looks for me, and wonders about my story.