One of Those People

Posted by laura on Oct 21 2008 | Uncategorized

There’s this couple here in town that we see out walking quite frequently. We probably pass lots of the same folks when we’re out and about, but these two are distinct. HE: favors grey nylon running shorts every single day of the year. SHE: opts for the layered, flowy skirt look with hiking boots. THEY: have curly hair and a similar gait. WE: see them everywhere we go. They walk all over the place, and it’s reached the point that if we notice one without the other, or the two of them driving in their little pickup, the whole order of the universe seems akilter.

A few days ago, another mother from the elementary school and I were waiting on our bikes for the light to change, and she was asking if we ever use our car, because apparently she sees me all over town on my bike. It hit me suddenly that I was turning into one of those people, those characters that flavor a community. (The trouble rises when the flavor isn’t different-yet-complementary, like sea salt on chocolate. Sometimes the flavor is an overabundance of dusty dried thyme. That’s a bit of a worry.)

I mentioned that there were some people in town that I see everywhere, like this one couple we see strolling about everywhere… “The walkers! I know them!!” she jumped in. She told me that one day she stopped at a local cafe and they were sitting in one of the booths and she felt so strange to be next to them. It’s as though we’ve assigned these two people a place in our worlds, and it involves walking. There’s no sitting down; that is all wrong. It’s just like when a kids see their teachers outside of school – they’re appalled.

My friend and I moved on to other local characters – she also knows the older Eastern European woman we see walking to Safeway. She’s always dressed in a knitted hat and layers of clothing and she sends out a distinct ‘don’t talk to me’ signal. It might be that she always looks cross, or it might be that she actually steps off the sidewalk and out into the street to avoid coming too close to anyone else. One day she actually said hello to me, although I’m sure I could hear her thinking afterwards, “Shoot! What did I say that for?! Maybe she didn’t hear me.” Well it seems that our cross elderly neighbor is some hotshot scientist – I definitely have to get to the bottom of that one.

There’s an interesting moment when the narrative we invent for people we see collides with actual knowledge of those people. For a while they can play along side by side until one overrides the other.

In the meantime I wonder, as I bike to get the kids in the afternoon, how many people pass me and think, “Oh there she goes again!”

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