Note No. 36

December 27, 2009

I walked the island this morning.

It was not my intention when I set out with my iPod Shuffle and headed to the usual turnoff to reach the beachwalk. After all, I had only packed enough music for an hour but then I got to the end of the street and instead of turning left, I went right and then suddenly, I was on the main drag and doing my old route, right there in front of everyone.

It didn’t used to be a big deal. It used to be my morning routine. Then, on Oct. 4, 2008, some guy ran up behind me and grabbed me to try to get me into the bushes but I was able to knock us both down into the street, where I proceeded to scream obscenities until he ran off.

After that, my walk was just not quite the same. At first, I had a gal pal going with me but I still had to get to her house two miles away and it really annoyed me to think I’d have to get there in a taxi, so I incorporated a big, black dog into the circuit but then that added about 20 minutes, because the owners had to go fetch him from his six-by-six foot pen that had a one-by-one foot hole to get him in and out, so I was always late to get to this friend’s house, which was understandably irritating to her, so that fizzled.

I still went to get the dog by myself, and he and I made a go of it for probably another eight months, but then it started to get more and more difficult, because the owners were often out of town, and when they were in town, the man would generally go fishing and the wife made it clear that on those days, I was not to come round, because then who was going to put Blackie (I did not name him) back in his cube? It is probably easier to ride a bucking bronco than it was to get him back in his little balcony and that’s not even mentioning the heartbreaking stare he gave you from the other side when you did finally manage to shove his poor little head in there and slam all the barricading boards back into place.

So, then I started dancing in my kitchen: hourlong sessions that left me drenched and satiated. This only lasted another few months, though, because it got boring and I was getting as white as a termite under a rock, since my only time to get sun was always on those morning hikes. (I don’t really go to the beach.)

That’s when I started walking the boardwalk by the sea, as there are always people on it in the morning and I felt safe doing it alone, but because Blackie lives off of this walkway, I had to cut out a good half-mile section of it, knowing that it would just be torture for us both if I walked by him, so I would pace the same stretch, back and forth, back and forth for an hour, more or less content with the view but not quite satisfied by always turning around at that same corner, not even a circular roundabout to make it feel complete.

Then, last night at dinner, a friend asked me why he no longer saw me out walking. I had changed my route, I explained.

Was it because of what happened?

Yes, I said, and he lamented when bad things happen to good people. Yet what he should have been grieving was when people let bad things control them. I know we are not meant to forget things like my experience but nor are we meant to remember them to the point that they stop us from doing what we love. I love walking. I always have. I always will. It is part of me and what makes me tick.

That must have been in my subconscious then when I set out to do my usual hour this morning and then abruptly turned in the opposite direction. About 20 minutes in, I passed a friend on his bike right where we used to always pass each other.

“It’s good to see you walking!”

“I know. Thank you.”

Then I saw another friend, who also commented that he had not seen me out in a long time.

Then I couldn’t stop. I passed my usual turnaround point and struck out for the south end of the island. I still glanced behind me every so often to make sure no one was sneaking up on me, and I had my keys squeezed between my knuckles the way I was shown to do, but I felt confident and it felt good.

Then I happened to glance down. Apparently, when I got dressed this morning at 5 o clock, I was not anticipating seeing the whole world, because I put on my new white sports bra under a thinning black T-shirt. Hours later, in the harsh light of day, I may as well have put on a black bra under a wet, white top. The effect was similar. To make it worse, there was some sort of cone thing going on with this new undergarment and I felt like Madonna, but not in a good way.

And I swear I was running into every single person I could have run into, most of them men. It was too late to turn around, though. I was out in the middle of plunging cliffsides and cactus scrub, more or less equidistant to go back or carry on. So after wondering why on Earth I seemed to always get myself in these situations, I had to find a way to keep going without wanting to cross my arms over my chest every time I passed someone.

“I live on an island,” I finally said. “People go to the bank in bikinis and they wear Speedos to the grocery store. It could be so much worse.”
I mean, I could have forgotten to wear pants. Or I could have still been stuck at home.

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