Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Walking Woman

There's an old woman in our area who walks almost every day. I see her when I'm driving to work and when I'm driving home, always walking the same path. Each time she's carrying a small bag in one hand, just a simple little cloth bag that looks as if it's seen better days. One of the strangest things about her is that her right arm -- the one that carries the bag -- is much longer than the left, as if she's been carrying something heavy in that little bag for sixty years and it's gradually stretched the limb. Is that even medically possible? I don't know. It's an interesting idea.

My wife has lived in this suburb all her life. She tells me the old woman has been walking since she was a little girl, always along the same paths, always with the little bag in her hand. She's never spoken to her and knows nothing about her. Only that she's been around a long time.

What is she carrying, and where is she taking it? It's not shopping, unless she buys only a few small things each time. And in all my years living here I've never bumped into her in the shops. I've only ever seen her walking along the road, travelling from one mysterious place to another. Her and her bag.

Perhaps it contains nothing more than a purse and the usual assortment of mysterious odds-and-ends found in women's hand-bags, for which the cloth bag is a cheap and convenient substitute. Or it could be some kind of medication. She might be asthmatic and unable to go anywhere without a puffer, or she might have to carry an Epipen in case of a bee-sting or a reaction to something she's accidentally eaten.

Or maybe the bag contains something more. Perhaps it's the ashes of a departed husband, a man she spent only a few short years with before they were cruelly separated. Maybe she chats to him as she walks, confiding in him, dreaming that he's strolling alongside discussing all those little inconsequential things married couples talk about. Or maybe the relationship was not a good one. Perhaps he was abusive, and yet his hold over her continues in death so that she is driven to walk with him, hearing his taunts echo in her mind as clearly as they did in life, driven to bear him from nowhere to nowhere in a vain attempt to find a peace that will never be hers.

But maybe it's nothing like that. Maybe, after all, it's just a cloth bag with a few odds and ends. It may be that one day I'll meet her and the mystery will be solved, although I can't help but think that once that happens, a little slither of magic and wonder will somehow disappear from my world forever.


  1. I think you've just given yourself a writing prompt, Peter. Facinating real world mystery.

  2. Yes indeed, Pete. Some great possibilities there.