I was standing in the driveway talking to our neighbor. He’d been outside when I returned from running errands and the spring warmth provided a pleasant space to catch up on the progress of their home renovations.
That’s when I saw her coming. She plodded up our hill with an uneven gait, her body sharply bent forward to push her cart. She wore a bright yellow vest, as she always did. It was the flimsy sort worn by crossing guards. Plastic bags peeked over the edge of her boots and clung to her leggings. She pushed bunches of hair from her face. It was thick and dark and slightly curly.
I saw her walking a few times a week. I had no idea where she came from, where her circuit started or ended. Once, I saw her in the grocery store, nearly two and a half miles away. She was rifling through the bin of recycled plastic bags.
I wondered what her name was. I wondered what she looked like when she smiled.
I always wanted to talk to her, but I never seemed to be outside when she passed. Once, I was and said hello. Her chin sharply angled away as she said hello in return. It was as if I’d startled her.
My neighbor knew her by name and called out to her. “How’s your day going?” he asked.
“It’s good,” she said. Her voice was low. She continued walking, continued pushing the cart.
We watched her back as she progressed up the hill. My neighbor turned back to me. He shook his head, pursed his lips, raised his eyebrows. I was expecting a snarky comment as he jerked his chin in her direction.
“That could be me,” he said. “Really. Just a few different life events, slightly different luck.” He looked me in the eyes, his own eyes spread wide in emphasis. “That could be me.”