Every evening, after dinner and the dishes, I will round up the dog and head for the front door. I squat down onto the old grey ottoman that now serves as our entry bench and slip into my walking shoes (technically they are running shoes, but I rarely run in them so I can’t really call them my running shoes). After strapping the dog into his harness, clipping the clean-up bag dispenser onto my belt loop and checking that my hair isn’t too disheveled, I carefully wrap the leather leash around my wrist and we are on our way.
Sometimes we walk briskly, with a purpose, and other times we stroll leisurely, me deep in non-philosophical thought and the dog deep in the landscaped bushes.
One by one the houses pass us by. I set the pace, but might be abruptly stopped by the dog, who sporadically decides to leave his mark on a lawn corner. Or, I might be pulled along suddenly if there’s something particularly aromatic on the curb ahead. This ebb and flow of our walk faintly mimics the unpredictability of life: we are all trying to go somewhere, but none of us know exactly how long it will take. There might be pit stops along the way. Detours. We might choose to take the scenic route or decide the shortcut would be better. Unexpected or not, there will be deviations. We just need to believe that we will get there, and keep walking.
One by one the houses pass us by. I never see any people inside the houses. There’s always a house with dad or big brother out in the front, watering the lawn or washing the car, and occasionally a group of moms (PTA, I presume) chattering about something insignificant. And people lounging on beach chairs in their garages, but that doesn’t count. Usually I hear dishes clattering or music drifting through a window, or I’ll see a TV illuminating a living room, and I’ll even smell a family’s dinner cooking. But all the times I’ve subtly stolen glances through open windows and open front doors, or elongated my strides in front of opaque curtains and unlatched side gates – no one. No faces. No evidence that there are actually people cooking the food or watching the TV or picking the playlist. They don’t know I am walking by (well, their dogs do), and I’m not sure they really exist. And, when the dog picks which lawn to receive his business, I sort of revel in the fact that they trust me to leave their house the way I approached it. Strangers trusting strangers. I like that.
One by one the houses pass us by. We don’t walk the exact same route each day, but the houses don’t look too different. Little differences and minor variations remind me that suburbia can still have personality. This house has the prettiest rose bushes. That house has the yellow Jeep in the driveway. There’s a pianist living in this one. A future DJ in that one. I don’t think anyone lives in this place. Ah, they finally hired a landscaper here. I particularly enjoy walking past the house with the dogs that run barking from one side of the backyard to the other, following us. And the house with lifelike sitting German shepherd statue on its porch. There’s also some places I don’t enjoy walking by. This house’s sprinklers have so much runoff that the entire span of sidewalk in front of it is wet. Parked on the street over there is an old white van that I always feel a person is going to jump out of, at me. Once, I saw this cute guy giving his dogs a bath. His chihuahua ran after us, but I never saw him again. Another time, a nice lady waved hi to us and said, How do you do? She lives in the house that just put out pumpkins on a garden rack for the upcoming holiday. And I always try to smile as I walk, walking through the neighborhood, a microecosystem in the biome that is our World.