Page 14 - WTP Vol. XI #3
P. 14

 The people I encounter say more about me than about the people encountered.
A man stops me on the sidewalk and says: “I said Hi to twenty people yesterday and you were the only one to say Hi back.” So now I’m the woman who says Hi, when I just wanted to be a polite nobody.
Two women jog passed me. “My family has nothing to complain about so they get together and complain about all they think they’re missing, all they think they deserve,” one says to the other. The second time around one looks up at me and seems disappointed. “Oh you again,” she says, like she deserves more.
On the western edge of the meadow where the wind has slacked after being caught in thorns and rough bushes, a vulture perches on a bluebird house staked eye level. It’s ghastly beautiful red head, so huge because it’s close, neither alert nor asleep, stares right at me. We are maybe five feet apart. It’s there
as I walk up and when I walk back down. Waiting for something to die.
Walking on the path around the pond, I’m not sure what the person walking toward me is carrying. Is that a baby? Yes, it is a baby, this pouch tucked un- der her jacket, the fuzzy peach head just emerging. Meanwhile the woman is screaming into her phone, in this otherwise peaceful place, as if that will help her get her point across. It’s the baby that’s quiet, perhaps already used to her mother’s yelling just inches away.
It’s maybe 10 by 20 feet, this chain-linked space, con- structed to keep the running, screaming three-year- olds from traffic and traffic from the three-year-olds in their bright tights and blinking sneakers. One in socks lifts her shoe above her head as if to start a revolution. And I think: If I were stuck in there, I’d start a revolution too.
A mother and daughter out shopping. Two ten-pound bags of rice, and a small package of cookies. “Are
you all right,” the mother asks the daughter bend-
ing down, looking closely into her face. The daughter nods, says nothing, enacting the classic mother- daughter relationship. The mother concerned, the daughter not wanting the concern to be so obvious and public. Both in sari and sneakers.
In the grocery store, a man approaches me and says, 7
“You’re Amanda’s mother.” “No, I’m not,” I say, “Sorry. I’m not anyone’s mother.” I’m not sure why I say I’m sorry. It’s as if I’m letting him down. But he persists. “Hi Amanda’s mother,” he says passing me in the dairy section. I want to say: look, if I had a daughter
I certainly wouldn’t name her Amanda. I’d name her Izabella Rose, Agnes, McCavendish, Wren.
“Don’t mind me,” a hiker says bending down next to me, “I just want to touch the mahkahs.” There are four geological markers at the top of Mt. Monadnock and he needs to touch each one after summitting: “I come up here and touch all four for good luck,” he says. And I wonder what, for him, constitutes good luck. A run of green lights back to Boston? Or just descending safely?
A man stands in the middle of the trail heading up Sugar Loaf. “Are you my wife?” he asks. I know people getting lost hiking but this guy seems to have taken
it to a new level. “No, not today,” I say continuing up the trail. I see, I presume, his wife up ahead, patiently waiting. She will spend the rest of her life like this, patiently waiting.
I pass one hiker who needs to stop and tell me her whole story, her job, her choice of socks, what time she needs to get home. The next hiker that passes says nothing, not even hello. Just stares down as twigs snap under his boots.
A man sits by the side of the Hopper Trail ascending Mt. Greylock. “Are you here for the rare blue butter- fly?,” he asks. “No, I’m just here to climb the moun- tain,” I say.
“I see you walking every day,” a man pulls over his Oldsmobile to tell me, “Every morning, I see you walking.” He seems so proud of himself, as if this is a great accomplishment. I’m not sure what to say in response. You have 20-20 vision?
At an all-day, inside, “Life Design” zoom workshop, we are asked to “ideate.” I have no idea what this means. I have already “designed” my life around hik- ing, walking around the pond, being outside as much as I can.
Outside the salvage food store a tall skinny guy with long dreadlocks hands out pumpkin spice sandwich cookies, labeled best before yesterday, to all who pass. It’s as if we’re in his living room gathered for a
A Year of Encounters

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