Walkin’ Man

There is an old man who walks up and down my street every day, all day long and into the night. He maneuvers along an intricate path, charted with precision on a secret map that is tucked safely away somewhere in his unconscious. He walks the same route each day, moving with short, quick steps, one hand in his pocket, the other hand often clutching a plastic bag from the convenience store at the end of the block. Every day it is the same invisible maze that he seems bound to like a magnetic lasso moving through time in self-propelled motion.

Once when I was walking home I saw him coming toward me in the distance. Just before we would have passed each other, he took a sharp left into a residential driveway, circled around the car that was parked there and came back out onto the sidewalk behind me. I assumed it was an antisocial gesture to avoid the pressure of exchanging pleasantries. But since then I’ve seen him repeat that circle time and again as I drive or walk past.

I have a friend who has lived in the neighborhood for years. She can describe every detail of his zigzags and loops. She says he makes figure eights up and down Auburn Avenue. My friend has in her mind for the old man a map that may in some ways mirror his own. But no one knows where his day begins and where it ends. For those who have noticed him, it may seem that he is living in a dream world. We do not have access to the logic in his heart that gives order to this bizarre system he is so committed to. He is probably out there walking right now. If you come back and read this later, he’ll be walking. Or even if you don’t.

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