I was driving up a hill when I saw the back of a head coming towards me. As I got closer it was confirmed, the striped beanie and wind-breaker flapped back of a jacket. The person was walking backwards down the hill. Lifting their feet in a marching motion, like they were winding themselves in reverse, going back in time. As I passed, I caught his face. He was a very old man. I saw a slight smile. Or I wanted to see a sign of contentment, for fear I’d have to intervene otherwise. Yesterday the sidewalks were glazed in a half inch of ice. Schools within the tri-county area were closed.
Generally, I leave people alone. You should be allowed free will even when your behavior defies custom.
The previous spring I drove by a woman, face down on a lawn, a toddler running in circles around her body. I pulled over a few houses past, once I’d debated in my head and decided she might be a corpse, or near it. I approached and called, ‘Excuse me? Are you okay?’ She lifted her face from the grass and informed me that I had interrupted her enjoyment of the sun beating her back. The toddler skipped over her calves, and the woman resumed drowning position.
I did not stop the man walking backwards down the hill. He was headed where he wanted to go. He took careful steps. I drove on to the library. I chose to park furthest from the building in an empty lot.
SHANNON MCLEOD is the author of the essay chapbook PATHETIC (Etchings Press). Her writing has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Hobart, The Billfold, Cheap Pop, and Word Riot, among other publications. She teaches high school English in Southeast Michigan. You can find Shannon on twitter @OcqueocSAM or on her website at shannon-mcleod.com.