Letter to the Woman I See Walking Every Day

Dear Walking Woman,

I see you walking almost every day. You walk all over campus here in our retirement community. Sometimes I see you in the morning. Other times I see you in the afternoon. I have a feeling that you probably walk your circuit more than once each day. Or perhaps you walk different circuits at different times of day.

Soon after I moved in here two years ago I was walking to the front desk in the main building when our paths crossed as you walked toward me. As we approached each other our eyes locked for a second. Then you looked down. I said “hello” as we passed. You mumbled “hello” and kept walking with eyes cast down, letting me know you didn’t want to stop to converse. A few days later we again ended up on the same path, approaching each other. This time, when our eyes locked for a second, you looked off to your left. I got the hint. As we passed each other, neither one of us spoke.

Since that second time, I have avoided you when I’m outside. If I see you in the distance, I alter my path so we won’t pass each other. I’m an introvert myself, and I cherish my solitude, too. I get that you don’t want to stop and chat.

You walk all year. In the winter you wear a heavy coat, a knit hat that covers your ears, and gloves. I think you must live in one of our three options for independent living here, since your ability to walk so much means you don’t need assisted living care. Yet I have never seen you in any context other than walking. You don’t attend the monthly resident council meetings, nor do you take part in excursions such as the monthly Lunch Bunch trips to local restaurants or the quarterly dinners for independent-living residents.

I’ve even thought that perhaps you live somewhere nearby but come here to walk around our large and lovely campus. But recently I met a new resident here, M., who asked me if I knew the woman who walked all around. I said that I had seen you but that I don’t know you. M. told me, “She says she keeps walking because she’s afraid that if she stops, she might never start again.”

So you can talk, and you did carry on at least a minimal conversation with M. Now I have to wonder if there’s a particular reason why you talked with her but not with me. M. is an overtly friendly person. Perhaps she didn’t notice your body language and stopped to talk with you anyway. Or perhaps you reacted differently to her than you did to me. Did I give off some kind of aura that made you turn away to avoid me? If so, it was unintentional.

I’m glad you enjoy walking here. May you long continue to walk on in silence and serenity.

Sincerely yours,
Mary Brown

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