Saturday, May 23, 2009

If I Didn't Take a Walk

The things I would have missed if I didn't get out of the house and take a walk.

It is not just the walking, but taking in, breathing in the surroundings. Paying attention to the houses and gardens and roads and byroads and commercial places. And best of all, squinting-- voyeur-like -- at the folks that animate the spaces.

The subdivision in Pasig where I live is typical of a lower-middle income community. No uniformed man stands guard at the unprepossessing gates that are always flung open. There are no truly majestic homes, neither are there too ramshackle shanties. Upward economic mobility is, however, apparent in a house being expanded here, another being repainted there, still another being landscaped further down the street. And the vehicles, ah! The buying of cars cannot seem to keep up with the building of driveways so that night after late night, one sees the no double-parking ordinance being blatantly ignored.

Folks here dislike being cooped up inside their homes.

Women visit each other's yards or meet halfway across the street to talk about, I would imagine, the knock-out terpsichorean style of Aling Dionesia (or Dionisia) Pacquiao, the latest medical advisory on swine flu, the bumper harvest from their avocado or cayomito tree, or -- God forbid -- that strange woman who never went out for years except to go to work but have now taken to daily walks ("Weird!"). In my paranoid, self-absorbed moments, I am thinking that would be me.

After five or thereabouts, when the stabbing summer sun begins to relent, children and children-at-heart would tumble out from their doorways to do their thing alfresco. Badminton rackets with or without nets, balls with or without baskets, monobloc chairs and tables with or without San Mig bottles on top would make their appearance on spaces that one would hesitate to call sidewalks, so precariously close they are to pedicab routes.

Around this hour, too, I put on capri pants, padded sandals, and wrist bag to take my long walk -- well, long in minutes but short in distance-- from my door to what I call the community mall and then back.

There will be others taking it with me, most of them more purposefully. Guys with a leash on hand at the end of which is a frisky beagle or an imperious-looking dalmatian. Housewives out to get some fresh stuff for dinner. Children scurrying to get their mother's errand over with. Senior citizens, about my age, taking a slow, effortful step at a time, doubtless complying with some therapy regimen after a stroke or some other medical episode. Obscenely fit for my years, I am sometimes loath to overtake them. And when I do, I occasionally whisper, when I remember to, a prayer for them in lieu of what I really want to do -- gloat I am still somewhat lithe and limber on foot.

Sometimes, when I walk, I ask myself over and again what I am walking for.

I walk to put some structure to my post-retirement life. I walk to treat my eyes to a break from a computer screen or a book. I walk to savor the breeze blowing my hair. I walk to keep from losing my mind or getting cabin fever. I walk to make sense of my life or parts of it. I walk in lieu of a boring 30 minutes on the treadmill or the 500 crunches I have wearied of doing.

Lately, I walk to see a guy.

This special person -- I do not even know his name. I began to notice him years ago, usually on the way to my office. He was always sitting on the pavement, deep in thought, asking for nothing, giving nothing, and bothering no one.

On the way back home, I would sometimes see him again, in almost the exact same place, as though he had not moved.

I have wondered about him then. My sons couldn't tell me much except that he was a fine basketball center they used to play with who got hooked on drugs. Apparently, substance abuse has addled his mind.

Someone must be taking care of him -- or used to -- because he looked well scrubbed and well fed -- or used to.

Nowadays, he looks grimy, emaciated, and hollow-eyed. His long, curly hair is untrammeled and his beard unkempt. When I asked around, I found out he had a kind sister who used to keep an eye on him and feed him but that she died a few months ago.

He no longer sits quietly at the usual spot. I see him dredging canals and scavenging trash cans in search of who-knows-what. Once, walking close on his heels, I watched him bend down again and again to pick up some stuff to put into his mouth.

I think I will call him Danny. By giving him a name, I might figure out what to do for him other than dropping a small bill by his side when I pass him, which he would acknowledge by looking up, his soulful eyes almost smiling. Then he would mumble what I could only make out as -- "Manang, Manang."


Gina said...

As only Annamanila can, making a 'humdrum' activity such as taking a walk becomes so interesting and meaningful.

I enjoyed this post MC...I could just picture you with in your capris and the wrist bag..walking and noticing every little thing around.

Leah said...

Walking is good for the heart...and definitely good for the soul.

Keep it up Annamanila

Anonymous said...

Ms. Anna, only you can write about a simple this way.

I have been meaning to comment, but alas I've forgotten my password.

May I ask if you live in Greenwoods too?


Dondi Tiples said...

Poor Danny. There a lot of Dannys in the streets nowadays. It seems the lower our economy dips, the more we see these unfortunate people roaming about.

rapahella said...

hi myrna.. you are a wonderful writer really...
as wonderful as you are as a human being...

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