One of the things I miss most about drinking heavily is the accidental people I would meet when I went walking. It was one of my most mad habits, something that drove the people who cared about me nuts, what few there were, and it was something I can’t explain to you at all, but once upon a time, I would get truly and honestly too drunk to stand up, and start walking. That may not seem like a big deal but at four miles an hour, and I’ve always walked very fast, a person can be gone, totally gone, in a short while. It didn’t matter where I was or what was going on, if I reached a certain point of inebriation I was going to walk.
I’ve always been able to create a certain sense of invisibility. I can ease through crowds and no one see me at all. I can sit at a table with other people and they forget I am there if I do not speak. At parties I would listen to people talk about things I know they would have never told me in person had they known I was there, but I wasn’t. I was the ghost of someone living, and after a while I would simply walk away from it all anyway. There was a party in Dothan Alabama I walked away from and was completely lost for hours.
I knew where some things in Dothan were, but not many, and not by foot. The party was at a house in a subdivision somewhere in the middle of town, and I wound up downtown where all the old buildings are, and I was fairly sure I didn’t need to be there. I tried to retrace my steps but everything looked the same in the dark, and on foot, but I could walk forever so it wasn’t a big deal to me. I stopped at a convenience store because they had a pinball machine and while I was playing this guy comes in and stares at me.
“Hey, weren’t you at Bill’s party?” he asked me.
“I guess, yeah, why?” I responded.
“Hell, they’re looking all over for you, how in the hell did you get way over here?” he asked.
This guy lived on the other side of town and he and his friends were on their way out. The cops came and busted the party up and people had to leave. He gave me a ride back to where the party was and the people I had gone there with were pissed. I remember very little of the walk except at one point in time there was a German Shepherd dog that had come to greet me and we talked for a while. And I was kicking ass at pinball. I really liked pinball. I also remember one of the old buildings had a brick loose in it and I pulled the brick out. I wondered how many bricks had to be pulled out before the building would collapse like a stack of dominoes but wasn’t going to tempt fate with that. I also wondered how many years ago someone had built that building, and when that brick had been laid to rest there. The last person to touch that brick was the mason who laid it in place, perfectly, and it had stood there for likely a century before some drunk fifteen year old came and pulled it out. I thought about taking the brick with me but that would be hard to explain to the cops and sooner or later, one thing I had learned, is the cops will stop and talk to anyone who is a stranger and walking.
Years later, a decade in fact, I went walking again one night, and this time the party was at my apartment but I wasn’t willing to sit still for that either. I had to get out and walk around for a while, and I had planned to walk down to the college and then walk back again, just to clear my head. There was a store on the way back and as I picked up a case of beer a very young woman stopped me and asked me if I was Mike and if I would walk her home. She was also one of the invisible, a much younger sibling of a friend, and even though she lived just a block away from the store, some weird guy had followed her in and she had been trapped there for about an hour talking to the clerk. Women can’t walk the way I have in my life, and get away with it. Hell, this girl walked a block and someone was already picking up on the fact she was alone. I walked her home, offered her a beer and instantly regretted it. But she told me she was sixteen, and that was far too young to be drinking. She asked me to stay, just in case the weird guy had followed us, and I realized she was afraid of me, but because she knew me by sight, it was better than the weird guy. That’s something else men don’t have to deal with. So I sat and drank beer and she told me she was staying with her brother for the summer because she was sick to death of living with her parents but couldn’t get a job to move out. She had epilepsy and even though she was taking meds for it and it was under control, her parents treated her as if she were dying, or would die, if she did the wrong thing at the wrong moment. No swimming, no movies, no driving alone, and it was beginning to wear her down. It pissed her off to finally get to go somewhere she was independent and one of the first things she had to do was get an escort to walk her home from a block away. She was a poet, liked dogs, and told me that I wasn’t as scary in person as she had heard. She told me she had one date in her entire life, and just wished that no one knew who she was, so she could be who she wanted to be. She had lived in the shadow of her older and successful brother and lived with her disorder, and hadn’t quite yet lived. There was a pause in the conversation and she asked me for a beer, and I told her it was a bad idea, to drink while she was thinking the way she was, and she agreed with me. I hefted the case on my shoulder, told her to lock the doors behind me, and walked.