Passing Glance (Short Story)
I wrote this story today after walking 2.5 miles. I passed a woman walking her dogs, traded greetings, and then thought to myself “What if someone fell in love like that?”.
by Jason C. McDonald
Whether or not June 23rd is too late to start a New Year’s Resolution was beyond the point. I was going to speed-walk three miles a day if it killed me. I spent six to eight hours a day clattering out computer code at the office, and an hour lunch break didn’t afford me any more time than it took to walk down to the little café a block away.
So, with the knowledge that my brief daily commute had bad traffic about three times a year, I decided I’d start getting up an hour earlier, skip the Today Show, and start walking before work. As I dragged myself out of bed that first day, I mulled over possible motivations to torture myself like this every single day.
A mile and a half into my brisk walk, I found one walking on the other side of the road, at the corner of Baldwin and West. She was about five foot eight, with long chestnut brown hair and a pink exercise outfit.
“Good morning,” I offered.
“Follow her, you idiot,” my brain shouted at me.
“Yeah, sure,” I muttered under my breath. “And look like a stalker. If it’s meant to be, I’ll see her again.”
Sure enough, the next day, there she was, at the corner of Baldwin and West.
I smiled. “Beautiful day for a walk.”
“Every day is,” she replied.
Getting out of bed ceased to be a problem for me. I didn’t want to risk missing the gal on the corner. Every morning, we traded greetings in passing. I starting paying more attention to my exercise wardrobe. Every day was like a first impression, as far as I was concerned.
Finally, after two weeks, I broke the ice. “My name is Robert.”
Good, so the girl on the corner had a name. I smiled to myself. This had to count as progress. I began skipping the plain greeting every morning, and Denise and I began a real conversation…at the rate of one sentence per person a day.
“You look good today, Denise.”
“Have you seen that rosebush on Ashford?”
“The blue one? Beautiful.”
“Do you garden?”
“I barely manage to mow my lawn.”
“Homeowner’s association must love you.”
“My neighborhood doesn’t have a homeowner’s association.”
“Do they bother you much?”
“They’d landscape my yard for me if given the chance.”
“Maybe you should let them do your yardwork for a while. Serve ’em right.”
“They’d rip out my lilac. The president hates flowers.”
“What kind of creep hates flowers?”
“That woman would boycott a floral shop if given the chance.”
“But what would the signs say? Flowers stink?”
Denise just laughed.
This kind of conversation continued through July, into August. I found it an odd way to communicate, but I didn’t want to interrupt our respective workouts.
Then, one day in early September, Denise didn’t show. I made my circuit, worrying the whole way. I couldn’t focus at work that day, or sleep at all that night. “You’re reading too much into this,” I told myself. “She’ll be there tomorrow.”
Sure enough, she was. “Missed you yesterday. Everything okay?”
“No, but I appreciate the concern.”
I hadn’t been late to work in three years. My boss would just have to deal with it this once. I took three steps and made a U-turn. “Want to talk about it?”
Denise stared at me without a sound. We walked a block together in silence. At last, she spoke up. “My father just died.”
“He had Alzheimer’s. Those last few weeks, he couldn’t even remember who I was.”
I bit my lip. What was there to say?
“My brother keeps telling me that I can get a life now.”
“Were you caring for your father?”
“Yes. My brother just wanted to park him in a nursing home, but I couldn’t bear the thought of it. I made ends meet by working from home.”
“That had to be tough.”
“It was worth it. He was always my best friend.”
I walked four miles that day, just listening to her stories about her dad. I didn’t see her again that week, or the week after. Funeral arrangements, I was certain.
Then, on September 23rd, three months to the day since our first meeting, there she was, on the corner of Baldwin and West. “Good to see you, Denise,” I greeted her.
This time, she was the one making a U-turn. “Still walking every day?”
“For chance of meeting you.”
“How was the funeral?”
“Beautiful. But I need to talk about something else. That’s been the only thing on my mind since we last talked. What do you do?”
“I’m a programmer. I make computer games.”
“I used to be an artist for a marketing firm before I started caring for my Dad.”
“Yeah, I miss it. Freelancing just doesn’t have the same stability.”
“Can you get your old job back?”
“I doubt it’d be open still. There was a waiting list as long as your arm.”
“The company I work for is looking for artists. I could get you in touch.”
“That would be wonderful.”
A few moments of silence passed. Finally, I spoke up again. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Are you asking me out?”
“Have we ever really been in anywhere?”
Denise laughed. “You have a point.”
“There’s a great little restaurant by the waterfront. I could meet you on the usual corner at seven tonight, and we could stroll down there.”
“I’d like that.”