She walks by my house year-round, rain or shine, wearing a long, black woolen coat usually with its hood up. She wears a backpack and carries a shopping bag and a duffel bag. She is pretty, with long blond hair, probably in her late 30s, and dressed usually in a skirt. She is always alone.
I hear her coming because she suddenly shouts words and sometimes phrases that I can hear through closed windows. Maybe she has Tourette Syndrome, or is responding to voices she hears?
If I’m down the street and walking toward her, she crosses the street. I’ve seen her sitting at a table at the library with all of her bags. When I try to make eye contact, she looks down and away.
Today, she was pacing back and forth in the library’s parking lot wearing her characteristic black coat and hood and incongruously holding a couple of shirts on hangers covered in plastic from the dry cleaner. I was sitting and waiting for the library to open when I noticed her duffel and shopping bags under the bench opposite me.
When she quickly walked by me to pick up her bags, I said, “Hello.” She did not look at me or speak. But as she passed, she moved her hand laterally toward me in what I believe was some kind of acknowledgment, but I’m not sure if it was positive or negative. Then she hurriedly picked up her bags and left. I impulsively called after her, “It’s okay,” but I’m not sure what I meant or if she heard me.
Seeing her so isolated makes me sad. I wonder how she navigates the world. I try to imagine her story, what her life is like, and what she is feeling. Maybe she wants to be left alone.
If the opportunity arises, I will most likely say “hello” again to cautiously acknowledge her while holding her right to privacy. It just seems worth it to me to try.