Walking to Work: a True Story

gables banyan

It’s been six months since I saw the old man around the corner, walking his huge dog and wearing a baseball hat that feels like a hate crime, white letters on red.

The first time I saw the old man in the red hat with the white letters, the country had just heard the Man Who Won bragging about how wealth and fame allowed him liberties with female bodies.  As the Man Who Won spoke, the first cousin of a former president giggled.

One month later, the Man Who Won… won.

Whenever I round the corner of his street, I wonder if I’ll see him, the old man wearing a baseball cap that feels like a hate crime.  I wonder what will need to happen for him to remove that hat.

I have seen him twice since the Man Who Won won but before the Man Who Won spouted old KKK slogans to a sparse crowd in a haze of drizzle.  The rim of his baseball cap covers aviator sunglasses.  He wears cargo shorts and polo shirts.  He is short and squat and carries a beer belly before him.  He waddles as he walks his great, shaggy dog. An Old English Sheepdog.

I have not seen him in months.  A lot has happened.  I wonder if he’s removed his hat.

Walking to work yesterday, I did that Thing I Do When I Walk.  A pretty woman walking towards me, wearing workout gear that leaves little to the imagination.  It’s hot out.  It’s in fashion.  She’s allowed.

I tell myself I’m a Good Guy.

I can’t read her body language.  She’s stopped looking at the greenery and started looking at the sidewalk.  I switch to the other side of the street.  She doesn’t need a 6’3″, 230-pound stranger walking into a morning she’s trying to enjoy.

I don’t need to know her to know that males have commented on her body.

I know we live in a country where the Man Who Won won.

Men have commented on the soul conveyance she was given, one that will carry her from birth to death, a body they believe belongs to them as much as her.  They comment.  They catcall.  They stare.  These are best case scenarios.  At worst, she is in the sisterhood of women like many of the women I know and love, women whose stories I can’t share because they are not my stories to tell.

The woman walking toward me in workout gear doesn’t need to worry whether I am another Man She Needs to Endure, so I cross to the other side of the street.

This is the Thing I Do When I Walk.

Yesterday I did That Thing, and came face-to-face with the old man in the red hat with white letters.  Up close he is not so old.  Perhaps late fifties, perhaps early sixties.  Up close he is taller than he looks from a distance.  Nearly my height.  His beer gut is not as large as I remember, either.  He is wearing a polo shirt, cargo pants, aviator sunglasses with brown lenses, and he is walking a Marmaduke dog.  The Great Dane comes to my sternum.  It’s a giant.  Unmistakable.

The Miami sun has faded his hat from it’s shocking red.  It’s a tired red, now.

I don’t want his hat to feel like a hate crime.

I don’t want to be #triggered by him wearing it.

I want to knock it off of his head.

I don’t like wanting to knock the hat off of his head.

What I do is look the man in the eye.  I want the measure of a man who would wear that hat.  He drops his gaze quickly.  The Great Dane does not.  The Great Dane’s slow head swivel marks my progress as I pass them on the sidewalk.  The Great Dane knows his place in the world.

On his block, homes cost per square foot what I pay monthly in rent.  He walks out of a $9 million-dollar home (or $22 million; getting the exact figure requires more research than I’m willing to give, but that’s the range on this block).  He is Winning at Life.

He will be buried in that hateful hat.

He can’t look me in the eye.

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