Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walking Man

I walked for an hour to get a stick of deodorant.

I had dropped off my car for repair work and decided that, rather than taking the bus or calling on a friend for a lift, I would walk home. I had nothing up for the evening, and it would still be light out for a while, and I needed the fresh air and exercise. The weather was nice, the path was mostly flat, and best of all, my home is in the middle of the next town over.

I knew that going in, of course. I've lived in this area for a significant portion of my life; I have a vague idea of how long it takes to get around by car and on foot. I also know that I'm not going to be around here much longer, and in some ways, the hour and fifteen minutes it took me to walk home served as a sort of farewell to the place that has been my home since I was just finishing up elementary school.

Not that anything ever goes according to plan with me, but if things go according to plan, I'll be moving some time in the next few weeks to another state. The immediacy of the move hasn't yet sunk in, but the history of my time here certainly has.

On my walk, I found memories in nearly every street sign and on every corner--that's the street where my sister's friend lived; that's the park where I took my girlfriend and my fiancée (different people; different times) for a quiet stroll; that's the street where I babysat the entire neighborhood during a hurricane that never happened; that's the intersection they rerouted that confused everybody for a month. I was never more than a few minutes away from an old haunt or a family I used to know.

Yet, despite my familiarity and connections, there was so much I had never noticed. Tiny shops nestled into corners that are barely visible at 30 miles per hour. Construction projects far back enough from the sidewalk that they don't catch your eye. Beautiful streams running between properties. Indications that the buildings I've taken for granted aren't just houses, but the homes of real people: sports trophies in the window of a second-story bedroom; the random stucco house amidst the Victorians and Cape Cods; a vintage car on cinder blocks under a tarp in the back of the driveway; a roofless treehouse filled with patio furniture.

I was also reminded that, for some people, it is summer. Grinning children chase each other around their yards; rowdy parents huddle on the bleachers to watch their kids play baseball; middle-aged women sit slumped on the steps for a smoke while their dogs meander down the driveway; younger women wander barefoot onto the back porch to water the plants; two men with arms crossed peer intently into the open hood of a car. Folks are outside again, reclaiming the outdoors after a particularly oppressive winter.

I think that's the key to keep in mind after I move: I need to get outside and claim wherever I live as my own. The farther I get from where I essentially grew up--and the closer I get to where I live now, in the next town over--the more I realize how much of an outsider I am here. I go shopping, eat out, and watch movies in the theaters, but everything is a destination. I have no community here. It's been a long time since I've been an active part of any local group, and my friends all live in different towns, excepting Alex, who lives so far on the other edge of the city that he's almost in another state. If nothing else, I need to step outside more often to feel like I'm a part of anything beyond my front door.

My hour walk led me to the one place I had been trying to go all week: the drugstore. A new stick of deodorant would soon be mine. Every time I had gotten into the car the past few days, I was so focused on reaching my destinations that I lost sight of the store on the side of the road that had what I was looking for. As it turns out, sometimes it's very good to take a fresh approach.


Brandon said...

Mr. Hoover, your story tugs on my heart strings, truly it does. I can remember many a time where I walked through my own home town and felt the same way. It is a somewhat depressing feeling.

Though, keep in mind. It seems as though communities are kinda rare these days. Usually people just have their little circle and that's about it. Just from what I've seen and all.

But, where ever you move, I wish you the best of luck into the best community possible. Afterall, you wouldn't want to move into a tuggy neighborhood. Make sure where you're moving to has nice community centers, nice schools and the like, just a generally friendly looking place. Personally, I'd say to avoid places where alot of people are moving to, experience has shown me that it more or less brings people you wouldn't want.

But now, I'm ranting. Anyhow, the best of luck Mr. Hoover. Live long and prosper. :)

Flashman85 said...

Thanks for the kind words--I've located a place that looks good, and I'm sure you'll be hearing more about that before too long.

Peace and long life, Mr. Brandon.