Saturday, 9 August 2008

The walking man

Something about the rapidly fading light with the evening coming close in. Something about driving along the lonely road and the long thin line of puddled pavement that ran like a wayward silver lane singing it's way along at the field's edge. I thought I saw him walking there.

Someone from my childhood, someone my family had known of for years, and the neighbours, the locals, the commuters on that route along the coast. But none of us actually knew him. 

He was the walking man, the man with the sideways hang of head who spoke to no one, the man who walked 20 miles town to town with his limping black dog along the main road one way and then turned right round and walked back again, rain or shine, heat or blizzard, daylight or darkness. Every day.

Once, walking my own dog I came up close to him as I came out of a side street at a bit of a run. His face had a leathery tan. His eyes were half closed. His dog and mine exchanged sudden snarls and flash of fang at the extent of their leads. His dog had one milky blue eye. The man didn't seem startled by the sudden aggression. He just kept walking and his dog curled a tight lip as it eyed us over it's shoulder. His walk was in a constant parallel with traffic, and although there were interesting places along the way, this was someone intent on a mission to get from A to B. 

I remember coming home late from one of my first paid gigs, years ago, now. I was trying to appear grown up and not hold my breath as we swung and swayed round the bends in the ill fated woods near home when we all cried out at the same moment, and swerved to miss him. It was close to midnight, heading east, and he just stepped out and walked across the road where the pavement runs out on one side and you have to cross over. He flashed across the curved line of cat's eyes as slinky as a creature that only knows the night. The dog's eyes turned hollow, transparent, luminous in our headlights. In the cover of the darkness behind us, they were walking invisible again and our hearts were left pounding in our ears.

Similarity of situation. Driving home late on an empty road after a gig. Music still playing in my head. A long meandering pavement for someone to walk. Fields and trees turning into the monochrome tones of night. The sort of landscape that longs for his silhouette.