I took a walk for the first time in a long time tonight, just a short one, down to the end of Lindley Park and back. I used to like walking; I’m not sure why I got out of the habit in the last year or so. Maintaining exercise regimens has usually been a problem for me, but walking had always been a natural outlet whenever I was bothered or frustrated. Now I just sit in front of the computer, arguing with people on Facebook.
When I was a teenager and stuck in a post-high school limbo, I would walk around the streets of Sanford in the evenings. I don’t know what other kids did; maybe they were out partying, or watching TV. Sanford had no nightlife, so I had the downtown to myself. I had long hair and frequently walked after dark, and it’s hard to believe that no one ever stopped me to ask questions as to my activities. In the summer the tree-lined suburban boulevards near the business district reminded me of my grandmother’s neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia; in the winter I would pull my jacket tight under my freezing cheeks, imagining I was James Dean in Times Square, solitary and alone amidst the Christmas lights of Middle America.
I wasn’t the only person who walked around town. There was the “Biblewalker”, a black man in a suit who strolled around with a Bible under his arm; I assumed he was a preacher tending to his flock. And up on Hawkins Avenue there was a guy about my age, who I would see shuffling down the sidewalk in a navy peacoat. I had worked with him at the Burger King when I was in high school, and he struck me as a little off, not that I had any room to talk.
As I walk home tonight, I imagine I’m James Dean, though the silhouette cast by the streetlights is that of a chunky middle-aged man, not the lean young rebel who once stopped to gaze into the silent storefronts on Steele Street, his mind focused on things a thousand miles away from a small southern town. From what I’ve heard, the Biblewalker still walks the streets of Sanford; I wonder if the rebel still walks them too.