A Long Walk
by, Melissa R. Mendelson
Concrete baked under heat. Clear skies told of no rain to come. A breeze barely slipped by. Traffic roared like the ocean, and footsteps echoed along streets. And still the stranger walked.
It was the end of summer. The rain had finally died down, and all that was left was the heat. Bodies laid under sun against sand, and salty water splashed down along shores. And glints of light bounced off metal as cars made their way up and down the local roads, ignoring the stranger waiting for the light to turn green, and a boy on a bicycle cruised between street and sidewalk. And the stranger crossed the road.
Small shops decorated the Long Island roads. Gas stations and snack shops claimed corners of street. Parking lots were full near the strip malls, and cars shot out of exits and entrances. And the stranger dodged the cars without a care.
It was a day for walking. Families entertained themselves in parks or sunned themselves at the beach. Teenagers chilled at the mall or fun zones, and kids enjoyed a cool swim in the swimming pool behind their house. It was finally summer, a day to enjoy, and the stranger’s feet never stopped moving.
The glare of the sun was held back with dark sunglasses. Light clothing warded off the heat, but feet remained hot in sneakers. But the streets were too dangerous to walk in sandals, and glass had found its way into a foot once. And that was an experience to never have again.
“What are you running from?”
The thought came out of nowhere, and the stranger hesitated. Feet turned one way and then shifted into another direction, but then they paused by the corner as the traffic light turned red. And cars continued to cruise on by like she was never there, and maybe she was nothing but a nameless ghost wandering through life.
“Where are you going?”
The traffic light flashed green, and the stranger crossed the street. Sunlight bounced off waiting cars but dared not to touch her. Feet kicked at concrete, and white rubber met sidewalk. And the walking continued down another long block and along more cluttered streets.
“Why do you do this?”
The thoughts were becoming annoying now. These walks usually went on in silence, but the mind was in turmoil. Life had bitten in deep as of late, and the head was cluttered with mistakes done and mistakes that could never be taken back. And these walks usually cleared the air, dropped the burden off by the front door, but today, it was the unwanted companion that dogged each step.
“You can never escape.”
Life was no longer lived like a rat in the maze. The walls were finally beginning to fall away. Every path now led somewhere, and if a dead end was found, all that was needed was a u-turn. And then something else would come along, so why was her mind telling her that there was no escape?
“You can’t run away.”
For a long time, there was nothing more that she wanted than to run away from home. Slammed doors, loud arguments, and tension that could slice like a knife waited for her on days, where she was tormented in school. And it was never-ending, and nobody heard her, nobody saw her, and nobody knew her. And if she left, maybe, somehow she could begin again.
“Don’t lie to yourself.”
But she escaped. She found a new life, and in leaving home behind, she began to understand herself more. All those mistakes that she could never take back ripped her life apart, and all the turmoil left behind continued to leave things in ruin. She had to leave because if she never did, she would have remained lost, a ghost wandering along life, but was she finally alive?
“Don’t hurt yourself by these lies. You’re still trapped. The walls are closing in. You just don’t realize it yet, but nothing has changed. You can’t escape.”
The thoughts were cold like rain and continued to pour down despite the clear skies above, and its angry shadow lingered behind her. Tension touched her skin, but the heat burned it away. The roar of traffic echoed the rage boiling within, but why was she so angry? Was it because she had lived blind for so long, letting the wrong ones in, who tore down who she was? Who was she now?
“I don’t know who I am.”
That thought always haunted her. She knew where she began, how her life had taken the turns that it did. She knew her mistakes destroyed the person that once existed, but now the slate was clean. Who was she now? Was she on her way to living a better life? Would she be seen, or would she remain invisible?
“I don’t want to disappear.”
Her footsteps were growing heavy. The burden of life had settled back on her shoulders. Clouds covered sky, and depression tried to slip back in. But it was denied and would not be allowed to claim her life again.
“I don’t want to disappear.”
The move here was difficult. Her life or what was left of it was thrown to the side, and she had to begin again. But she was ready. This had to be done. She couldn’t live the way she did anymore, and these walks were her reflection of that choice. And she used to enjoy taking these long walks but not today.
“I want to go home.”
Home was still waiting for her, and she would return. But not until she was ready, and when she did go back, everything would be different. She would find herself closer to those that did not see things as she did, and there would be no more arguments or doors slamming closed. And maybe there would even be understanding, and she would be a ghost no more.
“I can’t go back now.”
Her new journey had only begun, and the days ahead would be long and difficult. But she would try to not fail again. She would try to not let the wrong ones back into her life, but she didn’t always see them coming. And she knew they lied in wait to waltz back into her life and tear her down, and they wore the masks of saints. But those masks merely hid their horns.
“My heart breaks.”
There was nothing more that she wanted than to love and be loved. She had looked for love in all the wrong places, and all the wrong ones brought her bitterness and despair. Did love really exist, and would it find her? Or would she continue to turn down blind alleys?
“It’s time to go back.”
Hours had already gone by. A cool breeze was now blowing. Traffic had even slowed down, and she found herself three towns over from where she started. But her legs were tired, and her feet hurt. She did not have the strength to turn around and start again.
A slight smile crossed her face. Her eyes caught sight of the local bus, and she fished change out of her pocket. She would sit back and enjoy the ride, and she would no longer let her thoughts run wild. She had enough for one day, and the pain in her legs tomorrow would be proof of that. But when the next weekend approaches, she would take to the streets again and leave the world behind.