I don’t know his name. I’ve attempted to engage him a few times, with no response. No eye contact, no acknowledgement, he ambles by as if I weren’t there. I don’t take it as rude. I’m not sure how to take it, so to speak, but it doesn’t feel rude.
I would guess he’s in his 60’s. He’s perhaps 5’9″, wiry, if he weighs more than 140 pounds I’d be surprised. Some times he sports a beard, of varying length, other times he’s close to clean shaven. Last winter he had a massive beard, it was enormous on his face. He wears old snapback baseball hats and blue pants, and he shakes a bit as he walks back and forth several times each day along the sidewalk in front of my house.
In the two and a half years I’ve lived in this house I’ve seen him hundreds of times, at all hours of the day and night, in all seasons, always alone.
He smokes. I don’t believe he can bend down. I sometimes walk the same sidewalks, and find full, unlit, cheap cigarettes strewn on the ground. Monarch 100’s.
It seems garish to me to wonder like I do, but I wonder about him all the same. What did he used to be? Does he have family? Where does he sleep? He is one of several indigenous Oak Park walkers that routinely pace 10 Mile Road. I know he goes to the Speedway gas station at the corner of 10 Mile and Coolidge. I’ve stood in line behind him. He buys coffee, and cigarettes. He doesn’t speak to the employees either. They fetch his cigarettes automatically as he approaches the counter. He pays in cash, often crumpled bills and change.
I’ve never seen him eat, but I assume he does. What does he eat? How does he attain the caloric intake required to pace the sidewalks over, and over, and over, in all manner of weather? Where is he going when he walks West? I want to follow him, but I know I shouldn’t. Where does he get, and keep, the myriad of coats and hats he wears? How long does a pair of shoes last him? Why am I so interested?
Has he lost his mind? Will I lose mine? Do children yell at him? Do passing motorists fuck with him? When is the last time he mowed a lawn, bought wrapping paper, fretted over declining water tables?
I extrapolate the distance he’s walked, and wonder where could he have gone, were he to just keep going in a straight line? Maybe he has, and ended up right back where he started.
I don’t know.
I have an old sweatshirt about his size, and a winter hat I don’t wear. I intend to give these things to him, if he’ll take them. I turned in my Speedway points for a gift card this morning, maybe he’ll take that too.
I don’t want to get old. I don’t want to wander, stagnant and alone, along the exhaust laden service drive sidewalks. I want more than that. I imagine he does too.