I see them everywhere. Almost every time I get in my car and drive down Haynes Bridge Road to go anywhere, I spot them. Tall (very tall, at least 6’5”) and lanky, they walk quickly, leaning precariously forward, making it appear that if they didn’t walk so fast they would fall flat on their faces. Sometimes there is only one, but most often they walk together. I call them the Walking Guys.
They live in one of the neighborhoods behind mine, and I never thought much about them until I got laid off from a job many years ago and spent a lot of time at home. Sitting on my bed next to the window with my laptop, scouring the internet for jobs, I couldn’t help but notice that these two guys walked up and down my street a lot, cutting through my neighborhood to get to theirs. Sometimes they were on their way to work (I guessed), and other times they had bags of groceries. I begin to wonder about them. Obviously they didn’t have a car – I’ve seen them out there in the worst of weathers; but the plus side is that they’re in great shape.
They look alike. They dress alike, usually in combat boots or hiking boots. One of them likes button down shirts with the sleeves cut off. The other has longer hair. But they do look alike, plus they’re the same height. Perhaps they are brothers, sharing a house in the northern suburbs, going to work, paying their taxes like normal Americans do.
Last year I was strolling through the Target near my house and ran right smack into them. My face beamed in recognition and I was all smiles, as though I had run into old friends. I began opening my mouth to exclaim, “The Walking Guys!” when I caught myself. After all, they had no idea who I was. So I snapped my mouth shut and just stared googly-eyed as though I’d run into Mr. Snuffleupagus, as if when telling people later no one would believe me. They walked past me through Target, continuing their shopping, oblivious to my recognition.
I wonder if folks in my neighborhood have the same reaction when they run into them, want to say, “Hey! How are you?”. I wonder how many people actually do greet them, and if they are surprised by the recognition by random strangers. There used to be another dude who I would see at least once a day, walking up the street with a basketball in one hand, leash attached to a tiny little Pomeranian-type dog in the other – it was such an odd combination, this tough guy going to play basketball up at Newtown Park whilst accompanied by the tiniest of little rat dogs. One time when Dixie and I were at the dog park, located next to the basketball courts up at Newtown, I spotted him and the dog. Some lady called out to him. “I see you every time I drive down the road!”, she exclaimed brightly. He sighed, and replied, “Yeah, everyone says that. Everyone”.
On nights when I sleep with the windows open, like this time of year and in the Fall, I’m often woken up around 5:30 in the morning by a loud British voice running past my window. Most of the time I don’t notice it, the voice infiltrates my dreams and I blissfully fall back asleep. But the last couple of mornings, it’s woken me up. Instead of being pissed off, I want to jump out of bed and see what’s going on; but I’m so drunk with sleep that I can barely sit up. And the weird part about this is that the British guy is on a conference call – while running. I never figure out how people manage to do this. When I’m on the elliptical at the gym, I’m mostly focused on breathing while trying not to fall off the damn machine. I’m in awe of people who can maintain normal conversations while on the treadmill – but this guy, he’s not just on the phone asking his wife what’s for breakfast; he’s conducting techy-type conference calls, with what I assume is a client in Europe or Asia (who else would willingly be awake that early in the States?). I want to wake myself up when I hear him so that I can press my face up against the window screen and maybe see him under the street light. I want to be able to recognize him in public, so I can catch myself exclaiming, “Hey you’re the British Runny Guy! I hear your conference calls every morning!”.
Fortunately for him, he’ll remain anonymous.