Afternoon strolls are so invigorating. Back in Michigan, I would meander along down our quarter mile of private dirt road or saunter around the pond in the middle of my private university’s campus. The sun would gleam down on me and warm my face, or the brisk autumn wind would push me forward. Story ideas would swim through my mind, inspiration would strike, and I would always burst into an all consuming grin that I could never quite swallow.
Since my move to Texas earlier this summer, I haven’t taken many walks. Knowing any time spent outside in the heat would automatically mean a shower and the necessity of washing every item of clothing worn, my walks consisted of the occasional family affair complete with mom, dad, two sisters, and two dogs. While these were fun outings, its not quite the same as a silent ramble to sort through one’s thoughts. This last Saturday, I finally had a chance to venture out on my own.
A Michigan chill had settled over Dallas this particular day. The overcast, humid 70 degrees was the perfect fall weather for a September afternoon in Texas. After spending the morning and early afternoon chained to my laptop explaining how to write a thesis for the eighteenth time to all my online students, I had to get out. Since the rest of the family had walked earlier, I had the excuse I needed. Harnessing our golden retriever, Amber, we set out together.
Getting outside was wonderful! Having actual paved sidewalks was a huge plus. Following the curving arc of the road, I wandered farther from home, waving to the occasional neighbor. The sky was a smoky gray, but no rain had yet fallen that day, and the color gave a certain muted sense of adventure to the whole expedition.
As I strolled forward with my normal perky step and observing eye, I noticed a red mustang with a white stripe down it pull up to a road I had just passed. It sat for a moment at the stop sign. Appreciating the car with the tinted windows for a moment, I redirected my gaze forward. Amber pulled me along, and I had enough other sights to take in that a car wasn’t too much of a distraction. It pulled away from the stop sign and caught up with me. Then it slowed down to keep pace.
An annoyance mixed with the slightest anxiety began to bubble in my chest as the car inched along on my left. From our previous time in Texas, we had known girls who had almost gotten dragged into cars as they were walking home from school. At the same time, perhaps the person in the car was merely trying to find a specific house number. There was no need to jump to conclusions. I sent a few veiled scowls over my shoulder and then tried to ignore the bright red car beside me.
Suddenly, the tinted window rolled down and a 30-something African American fellow grinned out at me.
“Just admiring the view,” he said.
The communication made me slightly less nervous. At least now I knew who I was dealing with. Glancing over again, I gave him a half-smile. With my T-shirt, jeans, unwashed braided hair, and unmade up face, I thought he was talking about the dog. Or he was admiring the view in a “girl-walking-dog-on-Saturday-afternoon-is-sweet” kind of way. I hoped he had said his peace and would now leave. He didn’t.
“You married?” he asked.
At the question, two major comebacks came to my mind. (Besides the fact that it was none of his business!) My first response: “I’m in a relationship with Jesus.” My second: “No, but my father is a black belt.” As I debated internally, I decided I couldn’t really lie, and I really didn’t have any reason to make up a story.
“No,” I said as I continued my striding forward.
The man grinned. “Can I have your number?” he asked.
Turning my attention to him, I gave him a sincere smile. “No,” I said sweetly. With that, I faced forward and continued tromping forward.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy shrug, roll up his window, and drive away. As the red bumper of the Mustang disappeared down an alley, I let out my breath.
It was only then that I realized I was hopelessly lost in our neighborhood and had no idea where I was. Thankfully, I had my phone with a GPS on it and managed to find my way home.
As I made it home hot, sweaty, and yet slightly elated at my adventure, I made a list of some of my observations:
1. A golden retriever is not a vicious enough looking animal to take as a guard dog.
2. I should probably carry a stick, pepper spray, or learn some self defense before wandering around Dallas alone.
3. I need an honorary husband/boyfriend that I can use as a shield against creepy men who ask personal questions.
As autumn arrives and I wander about more often, I wonder what other differences I will notice between Ortonville and Dallas.