Strangers Tour

two years, however many miles

by Celeste Schmidt


It’s misty and gray. Mosquito hawks bounce along the ground. A man crunches out of the trees and stumbles towards a water fountain, then a bench, then some protruding roots like a moth bumping into window panes. He wanders around in this little chunk of grass between the trees and the street, seeming to be looking for something under his feet, but nothing other than grass or twigs flatten beneath him. I pretend not to see him.


I am soaked and itchy from the rain. Ahead, I can see a man with a backpack. He’s so blurred by raindrops that I cannot tell whether he’s approaching me or going away…only that he’s walking quickly because I can see his backpack bobbing. I convince myself that it looks like he’s coming towards me, and briefly wonder if he’ll grab me. A little further and I can tell he is not headed in my direction. Turns out he was running to catch a bus stopped at the light.


As I walk over the bridge crossing the bayou, usual slimy algae and catfish below, I catch a glimpse of a stained, shuffling old man. The loops of a puffy plastic bag dangle on his fingers; it looks like it’s full of trash. The sidewalk is closed on the left by a little curb and the street, and on the right by a fence. I can’t walk around him…I slow down and hope to lengthen the distance between us. Barely moving, I watch him hold the bag close to his face, kiss it, and toss it over the rail into the bayou below. He leans and looks down to make sure it’s in the water. The catfish part around it, startled. The man sees me, and I pass him, and he crosses the street, and my heart speeds up, and it looks like he’s watching me, and I think he’s going to follow me home. I’m mostly sure he kept walking.


One year ago, when I used to walk home a different way, it was pouring. I was standing on the last median before my street, waiting for the cars to stop coming in so I could cross. I took half a step when the woman in the car in front of me rolled her window down: “Hey, do you need a ride somewhere?”