Since mid-March I’ve walked between two and three miles day throughout my village of Ross and two adjacent towns. I learned through experimentation three different routes to execute this healthy habit to get me out of my cottage. For some, albeit slight, change of scenery.
Depending upon the time of day there would be many dozens of people walking these back roads and street escaping indoor hum drum. Different people looking the same, acting the same which is to say seldom stopping and talking. Every mask was either white or black. Occasionally some one would wave as he or she hurriedly passed by. Assemblages of more than two people walking together was as rare as a passing vehicle, and if so, a family. Sometimes I would get a one word salutation, a mask-muffled, “Hi,” or at most “Nice day” from another person on the opposite side of the road, or one passing me always beyond the seven foot distant limit. Without a mask, always alone, and side-stepping when others were in my path I’d one-word answer and offer a smile.
Same sights every day too. Rolling back country roads, town streets with closed stores, intersections where traffic lights blinked yellow.
My regimen became increasingly boring. Every day the same. No need for the individual seven day designations. The name of every day was now just “Today.”
I left the cottage around noon on May 25, Memorial Day, taking a familiar winding ramble on a road bordered with rangy hedgerow and gates of steel preventing both entry and a view of the concealed houses. After about a half mile I stopped to rest on the edge a stone bridge across a now dry creek bed. On the same side of the road, there is a house just beyond the bridge. I noticed a man standing on its lawn taking pictures with his iPhone. Near him was a woman focused upon him. I thought it was a little brazen his taking photos of someone’s house. During these weeks many people had come from as far as the city, parked their cars in town, and walked these bucolic back roads. I thought the man was likely a visitor given his more urban attire which included a pork pie hat, black like Walter White’s, tie-dye slacks, a sallow T-shirt, and a string of Rasta color beads around his neck. The woman I now noticed was Asian dressed in bright blue top with gold sleeves, black pants and sky blue booties. Not the subtle local look.
Finished with photo taking he stepped to her and they, ten yards away, began walking towards me. I was still sitting on the stone wall of the bridge and as they passed me—-neither masked like myself—I said, in a deadpan voice, “What were you shooting?”
He stopped, took a studied look at me and said, “On the side of the house there’s pink pig in a cage. Interesting, huh?”
I sensed a hint of enmity in his terse response. I took it to say, if it’s not your house what’s your business, old man.
I nodded, though not believing it, having walked past this house numerous times in the last three months.
The woman said, “This is such a lovely neighborhood to walk.” They both stopped for whatever reason, maybe because I looked local or perhaps because I looked lonely.
I said not knowing why but I guess I was eager to have a live, in person conversation. “Have you walked up the hill,” pointing beyond the house and to the right, “where the lake reservoir is? A quite beautiful site.”
The man said,”Yes, we have. Very nice.” Noting my cane which I had placed by my side against the wall, he said, “You walk the area much?”
“Yea, guess I do. Not much else to do these days.” I sensed a slight change in his tone maybe because I had offered a word of recommendation.
“That’s for sure,” he said. “What’s your name? Mine’s Lucky.” This was a first in all my covid-19 rambles. A coming exchange of names.
“Bill. Good to meet you,” glancing now at the Asian who wore a cheerful expression and blossoms in her cheeks.
“And her name is Rattle.”
Cool, true or not. Lucky and Rattle. Not to be forgotten.
She said, “Hello, Bill. I like your shirt with the abstract, I think, bicycle in the center.” Yep, that was what it was, recalling I purchased this shirt in a hip boutique in Brighton, England a couple of years ago.
“Thank you,” I couldn’t yet say “Rattle.” Something inhibited me but not for long.
“I like your name. At the post office there’s a vivacious woman who works there whose name is Jingle. Rattle and Jingle. I like that.” I was thinking character names.
The man said, “Well now, Bill, you’ve got both Jingle and Rattle. Honey, why don’t you go over and sit next to Bill. I’ll take a couple of pictures. You make a good-looking couple.”
This, any moron would know, was not a good idea. I’d been taking all the careful distancing precautions for three months. I had to say no thanks, Lucky, it’s that damn covid-19, or something off-handed like that.
Instead I said nothing and in unheedful instant Rattle was sitting next to me. Lucky clicked a shot and said, “Put your arm around him and give him a kiss on the cheek.”
My mind was empty of any consciousness, not a thought rattled through my mind. It was as if I were a spectator of a film scene being shot with a look-alike me an actor. After the third click I regained my awareness that I was sitting next to a woman on a stone wall in covid-19 land. Flesh on flesh.
My mind went something like this: You’ve often taken risks with your health, with your loves and hates, with your occupations and travels, and, with women who were by nature and profession risky.
So. Fuck the virus.
Lucky said, “We’ll text you the pictures.”
I spoke my phone number and Rattle entered it into her phone.
As he removed his hat revealing a bald head and wiped his brow with what looked like a used mask, he said. “My real name is Lucky MF. LMF. Know what that means?”
I surprised myself. “Lucky Mother Fucker.”
He said, “You got that right.”
We headed of in different directions.
I noted when receiving the photos from her phone the area code was 510.
This morning the peach yogurt tastes as good as ever and the freshly-brewed coffee smells as good as ever.
I feel it’s too late to ever really know myself.