First please read me in The New York Social Diary.
It was a bright and windy day. I was wearing two or three year old MBT sandals with sport socks for the fashionable nerd lowest part of the body look; Gloria Vanderbilt jeans–we go back to the 70’s, just washed and looked pressed; a pumpkin spandex and cotton Talbot’s tee. I was also wearing a jean jacket though I know they’re so yesterday and Kate Spade sunglasses. I was carrying two insulated nylon bags as food shopping was involved. Though many of my friends make fun of my love of MBT’s, they stop when they try them on–and if they can afford them buy a pair. My hair is Southern blond highlight; my nails just have clear polish but are perfectly manicured–Southern–got over my fear of going into a Southern nail place.
The overly long clothes description is essential to the story. I walk. I am a New Yorker. New Yorkers think nothing of walking 60-100 blocks just because.
But I no longer live in New York. I live in North Myrtle Beach.
There are walking trails here. There is the beach. And yes I feel grateful to live near the beach. But this area is very beautiful and sometimes I need to walk into housing developments, around parks, on Route 17 and Main Street. Main Street’s kind of funky. It has overpriced boutiques, restaurants, a shag shop and a store called “Two Blondes.” Route 17 isn’t beautiful but it has many stores and is the same Route 17 that’s in upstate New York. It’s the North-South Route 66 though so much less famous.
I was walking for hours. It was one of the first days where the weather was beautiful. I felt almost on vacation. My fears about living here were fading.
I was plotting stories, and truly getting a lot of work done–in my head but writers do work in their heads, and I think best when walking.
I was at the end of Main Street about to cross to go to Kroger’s when a man in a road workers uniform and holding a sign said something to me. I was a little befuddled as it was Sunday and I didn’t see any road work. Then I realized he was holding the sign to direct non-existent traffic into the mega church parking lot
I made sure I only said “no, thank you,” and not “no, thanks, maybe some other time,” as I really don’t want to be converted, and I leave no room for that possibility. He could have been inviting for coffee for all I knew as he was looking me up and down but not in a sleazy way. I smiled. I’m sure he didn’t hear me as we were four lanes away from each other and I have a soft voice in the best of times.
Some of you know my smile is worth the net worth of a tiny country. It’s perfect in its imperfection and I smile constantly. I also look horrible if I don’t.
I shopped in Kroger’s. Nobody fainted when I said I wanted to bag my groceries in my own bag. I walked through a few housing developments and found my way back to Main Street where I became so engrossed in looking at stores, the sky and how it reflected the beach I didn’t turn on my street but walked almost to the end. This is where it became weird.
A man got off his bike. I realized he was the same man I had seen at the mega church and began to say hello when he said:
Are you alright?
I have no idea what he’s talking about and begin mentally checking myself out. My mouth was parched. I had forgotten my water bottle and finished the water I bought sometime earlier.
Yes thank you.
No are you really alright?
I saw you walking before and here you are again.
I like to walk.
Do you have any place to go?
Hello do I look like a homeless person? I suppose he thought I had all my worldly goods in the insulated bag, and the Nike nylon bag I carry instead of a pocketbook when I’m not going to see people or for an appointment.
For some reason I didn’t say that or sound angry. I asked him what about me made him think that I was homeless.
I wasn’t aware that’s illegal.
He repeated that because he saw me walk so many places he knew I must have no place to go.
If he had just turned it into a joke and said “it’s so rare to see somebody walk here,” I would have laughed and felt better but I guess that’s what we do in New York. Or I do.
I guess I was the one who was supposed to turn it into a joke or thank him profusely for caring or said my name and counted backwards from 100 by sevens (a dementia test,) but I’m sort of vain and have never been taken for a bag lady before.
I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable but I was convinced two policemen were going to come any second and arrest me for vagrancy. Logically I knew I have excellent ID, a platinum Amex, a bank/debit card and a cell, though I wasn’t sure how the cell would help me–it does have a lawyer programed in–helpfully with the word “lawyer.”
I was convinced that despite all this evidence of stability, and house keys, easily found in my jean pockets, I was going to be arrested for walking.
The man walked away, and got back on his bike. So bike reading is OK; walking isn’t. Have to remember the rules.
I walked home more than slightly humiliated. As soon as I got in I went to a mirror and inspected myself for signs of a homeless person. My lipstick–lip gloss–slightly pink was still on. I looked like a normal person.
I was doing what should be encouraged–walking with groceries that weren’t in plastic bags–and did weigh enough to be considered weight exercises. Sometimes I walk to the IGA in Cherry Grove, miles from my house in Crescent Beach, and walk back laden with groceries on the beach and even in the water. It impresses my friends.
I have found the exercise/weight program that I love and actually works and I think it’s illegal as it consists of walking with packages.
It’s April, the green month, and here in North Myrtle Beach, greenest city in the South I read, somebody stopped me for the high crime and misdemeanor of walking.
I go out walking after midnight…I stop to see a weeping willow….I go out walking after midnight