2020_07_31

An Evening Walk

A little after ten in the evening Jacob decided he wanted to take a walk. He didn’t usually take evening walks, but he had been cooped up inside all day and the moonlight looked particularly nice out the window. So he put on a jacket (he could hear the wind outside and knew it would be cold), some shoes, and marched out the door. In the yard he chose some music on his phone, put the ear-buds in, then slipped through the gate and started off down the road. Yes, besides the occasional gusting wind which he could hardly hear over his music, it was quite a peaceful night. Where should he go? He decided he’d walk to the top of the hill his house was on then down into the neighborhoods on the other side of it. There were no cars on his quiet little street, though he occasionally saw lights passing along the larger road just over the hill. Once he reached the top he was out of breath. He paused and looked out over the small patch of suburbs he could see, off into the city proper that started maybe thirty or forty blocks away across the river. What a perfect time. Jacob was honestly surprised by how few cars were out. He decided he’d walk down the larger road that ran down the crest of the hill, instead of crossing and going into the other neighborhoods. Maybe he’d return that way. But in the meantime he’d stop in at the liqueur store at the bottom of the hill, buy some smokes and maybe a beer to drink while he walked back. It was that sort of a night; a night to walk around aimlessly, smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer. He ambled off down toward the liqueur store. There was a girl smoking a cigarette outside the store.

"Hey," she asked as he walked toward the door, "Mind buying me a beer? I walked all the way here and forgot my wallet."

"You just want one?" he asked.

"Yeah," she replied, "I just wanted one for the walk back."

Jacob laughed.

"Sure thing. You know, kind of funny but I’m doing the same thing, grabbing a beer and walking around."

"No shit? Well, great minds and all that. Hey thanks."

He nodded and walked into the store. Inside he grabbed a couple of 24-ouncers, man-cans as everyone calls them. He went to the counter and got a pack of Marlborough reds, He usually smoked camels but for some reason he wanted the reds, and it was the type of night to follow one’s impulses, not question them. Outside he handed one of the man-cans to the girl.

"Here you are."

"Thanks man."

"No prob." He opened the pack of Marlboroughs and pulled one out.

"Hey can I borrow a lighter real quick?"

"Sure thing." She handed it to him.

He lit it and inhaled deeply. Exhaled. Inhaled again.

"So, how far did you walk here?" he asked.

"Oh, I live right on the other side of the river."

"Oh wow, that’s kind of a ways. Is nothing open over that way?"

"There’s a couple places. But I used to live near here and come buy beer here all the time," she gestured at the wall which she was leaning on. Kinda wanted to come back for old-time’s sake. It’s changed a bit though for sure. Oh plus I wanted a walk."

"Well, nothing wrong with that I guess. I’m out for a walk as well, no particular reason. Thought I’d grab a beer and some of these, drink and smoke and walk around."

They both laughed.

"Hey," she paused, "we could walk and drink and smoke together for a bit if you’re down."

"Yeah, that sounds good. I don’t got anywhere to be."

They both nodded and then set off at a leisurely pace towards the river. The wind had died down and all was still. It was one of those summer nights where the temperature was perfect. Once they were out from the street lights near the liqueur store they both cracked their beers and began to sip them as they walked.

"So," he began after a while, "how long ago did you use to live around this neighborhood?"

She was silent for a while. There was no rush to respond. They were just walking along with all the time in the world.

"It was quite a while ago," she said finally. "I’m not really even sure now."

They walked along in silence for a while. As they reached an intersection she turned and pointed.

"I used to live in this really cool house up that street. It had a big wooden porch and a backyard with a swing set. I’m not even sure if it’s still there. Haven’t been by to look in years."

He nodded. "That sounds pretty cool."

They kept walking. The street was soon out of site behind hedges and trees. They walked some more.

"Yeah, it was. I really miss it some times. It was a completely different time in my life, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, I think I do. That’s usually what I feel like when I go home to visit."

To his surprise they were already almost to the river. The bridge began at the end of the block. As they were passing through some shadows between street lamps the girl stopped, as did he. They turned towards each other.

"I’m Elizabeth, by the way."

"My name’s Jacob."

They looked at each other. Then they clasped their free hands. Then they kissed.

"It was lovely walking with you, Jacob. Thanks for accompanying me," she whispered into his shoulder as they continued to embrace.

"Thank you," he replied.

After a couple of minutes they separated, but continued to hold hands. Then they set off again. They left the shadow between street-lamps, entered the glow right as they set foot on the bridge. And in that instant, that transition between shadow and light, between land and water, she was simply gone. Her hand was no longer in his, though he had not felt it draw away. He halted mid step and whirled around, looking in every direction. He called her name. But she was gone. Vanished.

He never told anyone about that night. He simply couldn’t explain it. But he returned every evening to the liqueur store to see if she would somehow reappear, and when that didn’t work he began roaming the streets late into the evenings. He found the street where she’d said her old house was. He looked all up and down it for a house with a wood porch or a back yard. But he couldn’t find that either. It must have gotten turned into apartment buildings. It was a year later, and he had finally given up looking for her. But for old time’s sake, he decided he’d walk down to the store, grab a man-can, and walk around once more, just to reminisce about that strange night. He walked up the hill from his house, took a left, and walked down the hill to the store. He could see the side of the store lit up by the street lights. He squinted his eyes. Then he quickened his pace. There she was. She was waiting for him by the side of the store, smoking a cigarette, and she smiled as he arrived.