When my son was a newborn, he did not sleep well. I won’t try to explain the tragedy of a baby who doesn’t sleep because it will sound hyperbolic… But, his not sleeping led to me speed-walking around a botanical gardens nearby for an hour, two hours, sometimes three hours straight, because the movement and vibration of the stroller made him sleep.
When I look back on his infancy, I think of two things: how much he cried and how much I walked.
The walking was manic. It was the only answer I had, the only thing I could DO to keep him quiet, to keep myself sane. This, too, sounds like exaggeration. The day I walked until I could barely lift my feet and my clothes were soaked through from sweat, I thought, “If I stop walking, I will cease to exist.” I believed it.
I still walk, but now my son is awake for it, and we talk about trees, cats, birds, trucks on our usual route through our neighborhood. I walk fast, but I do so for exercise, not because I feel so strongly that I have to. My son says, “Go fast again,” when I slow down. He wants to pet every dog walking with its owner across the street.
We’ve been walking regularly here every morning for a few months. It’s our routine. Most of the other morning walkers are old-ish men. They always wave back, and it feels like I live in a time and place where neighbors still know each other, even though we don’t.
Today, as I pushed hard down the main road back toward home, I was approaching an intersection as a car coming the other direction slowed. The driver waved me through before turning after me onto the cross-street. He leaned through his window as he turned behind me. “I didn’t want to slow down your momentum,” he said. “You’re always really moving.”
I expelled a breathless laugh and thanked him over my shoulder. I looked at my arms and chest where I was sweating streams of milky sunscreen sweat. I could feel more sweat drip down the part in my hair.
Another man, just a couple minutes later, came out of his garage to say, “Hey,” as we passed. “See you tomorrow.”
And yet another, by the park where we stop to play before completing the circuit, tugged one ear bud down and told me, “I saw you down the street. Decided I would suck it up and go.” This man must be sixty. He walks most days the opposite way on my route. He wears khaki shorts and a tucked in t-shirt and somehow never breaks a sweat.
I don’t know why, suddenly, all of these people had something to say to me today. I have been feeling a little aimless lately. I have been feeling closer to depressed than usual, enough to look for a therapist. Does it mean anything? I don’t know. Probably not.
But it was nice. Just like I’ve sort of memorized the gait and height and route of several strangers, there are these people out there who knew I’d be there and who know I’ll be back tomorrow.