Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Awkward Walker

There is a type, in many cities­—­an archetypal form, if you will—whose prime existential challenge is that of walking.  This figure is an anxious, meandering thing, quite unsure of itself and even more so of the external world.  He or she tries menacingly hard to see into the future, to gather at least approximate (if not precise) insights into the movements of the world and its diverse beings.

The particular of this type is akin to all others of this type, formally speaking­­.  His being here a man is a purely literary aspect; in reality, both unfortunate men and unfortunate women play this role, or perhaps more correctly, partake in it.  Though their misfortune, it is arguable, is purely relative.

The Awkward Walker darts always in the wrong direction.  He shuffles to the right to make way for another, oncoming walker, but the latter has already made the move counter-wise and so leaves the former starting back to his original path, but fumbling in confusion, starting this way and then that, his concern for being in the way growing exponentially along with his general lack of orientation.  Beads of sweat appear instantaneously.

Soon the sweat begins to pour out and it is not long before the Awkward Walker looks more like a runner, patches of wet having formed around his armpits and back.  With no real choice now that he is in the thick of it, he continues his way through the crowded streets, anxiety working harder now at toying with his space-time perceptions.

The Awkward Walker cannot stop; this would only worsen his case.  He cannot stand aside, for he would not move and would starve in his relief.  He has tried, but cannot “better” his predictions; as has been stated, the more he tries, the more he fails.  This does not apply only to walking, nor only to the Awkward Walker.

He does not really look about him, at his surroundings and the generally fluid dynamics of the masses of other walkers.  Too determined is this being to be leagues ahead of the game, he more often finds himself far behind; too sure, to be sure, that the physical space he occupies at any given time does not impede on the paths of others.

But in doing so he leaves himself open.  The Awkward walker always tries to assure clear passage, and in doing so creates none.

Often he will try, the poor soul, to see many steps ahead, to read a busy street like a newspaper, blindly accepting the facts as they’re given, without considering them as part of a more important whole. He tries hard to predict the movement of traffic and the undulating throngs of pedestrians, but this confounds his cause further.  In doing so, he procures his own misjudgement, tries too hard to move correctly—whatever this might be; he concentrates on the wrong things, overlooks the city’s sharp drops and rises, so far away in his mind that he occasionally even trips and stumbles.  Other walkers scoff inwardly; some laugh.  The Awkward Walker perspires constantly; sees them seeing him; further even: sees them seeing him seeing them, like a terrible loop.  Thus he is distracted further.

Oftentimes there will be a kind of awkward stand-off between himself and a regular walker; a strange situation in which he draws an unfortunate into his miserable confusion, namely by continually stepping in the direction they choose to step.  This creates a rather absurd spectacle, whereby one aisle of pavement will be occupied by the Awkward Walker and his victim, each repeatedly stepping into one another.  And somehow onlookers know, and so too does the Walker himself, that it is his own fault and not that of the other.  He is the one who is making the wrong decision, over and over and over again.  Not the other.

This is why he mumbles apologetically the majority of his outings, does the Awkward Walker.  He must repent, despite his vast efforts to conform.  He reproaches himself constantly, unaware that his failure is relative and that this may mean something, may have a bearing on the way things are in a greater sense.  But then again, this troublesome fact may not matter, out there, in that town; the relativity of things is perhaps immaterial in a place ill-considerate of such things, where one must either walk in such a way, or be a nuisance to those who do by failing to adhere.

And so not only must this man endure his own disoriented and misled faculties, he must also accept being the clown of the streets, a subject of amusement for children and adults alike as he rough-and-tumbles his way across town, dropping papers, bumping into people, stopping too suddenly in all the wrong places and failing to keep pace with the organism-like masses of pedestrians that wobble across busy intersections, into and out of shopping centres, office buildings and the like.  This walker, being as he is, disrupts the ever-increasing flow of the larger, more organised groups, without knowing why or how his actions fall short of what is acceptable and accepted.

Reaching home for this miserable case is a most heavenly relief.  Through the building’s ground level, up several flights of stairs which, if he is lucky, are not occupied by coming or going tenants, and into the safe-box that is his apartment.  Always locked, curtains drawn, for this man does not wish the world to see him any longer.  One day at a time is more than enough to repel such a creature.
One room, one window and one man; alone.

From here he can watch the world, safely, without having to participate in it.  Here there are no others, no calculations to be made.  This is the place he continues walking for, despite the stress, despite the embarrassment and humiliation.  What makes it all worth it.

But there is always, the Awkward Walker well knows, a world of walkers waiting for him on the outside.  A city of streets which he cannot, will never be able to, navigate with ease.  A world of people which he will forever be a bother to, a joke, an amusing nuisance.  Forever waiting to be disrupted, as though foreordained.

The Awkward Walker peers across the town, trembling with fear and relief.

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