Checking the time while exiting the coffee shop, he decided he needed to hurry home. He would take the short way, a direct route that's just under a mile, uphill all the way. The first segment is a steep hill, a good place to initiate a strong effort. Work mindfully and with purpose! Make those legs, lungs and heart work.
His legs went to business. A woman was beginning up the hill a few steps beyond his start, a fresh skinned twenty-ish student looking sort of person. Didn't look like much of a walker but she had a good stride and would overtake him.
That he wouldn't allow, not because he was macho but because he didn't want to have to watch some woman's ass and hips swaying in front of him, so he would need to look away. Better to stay in front of her and avoid the temptation of appearing to be a dirty old man.
He stepped up his pace, increasing his stride. A few steps later, he could tell by the sound that he wasn't losing her. A higher gear was required but surreptitiously, old lad. Leaning forward as though he walked in intense thought, he moved into his next speed, shorter steps but more frequent, and arced up into the hill's belly. Oy, the sun chose then to become more prominent, applying its own mindfulness to being hotter and sunnier. Humidity drew in around him. Sweat burst free of his pores.
And her sounds still came close at foot. He had but one more gear and then he'd be running and he didn't want it obvious that he was walking so fast to avoid being passed. No, it must appear that he was oblivious to her presence, focused solely on his walk up this damn steep hill. It seemed steeper than the last time he walked it and that sun seemed bent on baking him like a pizza crust. Covertly he found his next level of effort.
Thank God the hill was short and praise the Lord, the cross walk signal was against him. He'd needed to stop and wait, giving him time for a breather. Hopefully she would go another direction or he would need to find an excuse to let her pass and then avoid looking at her.
Reaching the cross walk, he pressed the button. She was almost right behind him and then came right up to him, smiling brightly. Did he know her? But no, his circle of friends were much older except for the coffee shop and restaurant employees who knew him as regulars. Could they be deemed friends? Names were exchanged but what was their common ground for frienship? They would likely not know him were they not serving him, a position that dispelled his good spirits.
Now she said, "Boy, that was some pace. I could barely keep up with you."
He gaped at her.
She continued, "When you started up the hill, I thought I would use you to set the pace but wow, you were like a madman."
Sweat dripping down him, he bobbed his head and grinned, trying not to suck wind. She appeared a little pink, like a peach just coming into ripeness, younger than his initial estimate. The cross walk light turned white. "Well, good walk," she said, turning to head up the next hill.
He nodded to her form moving away. "You, too." Turning left, he moved more slowly for a few seconds, feeling his heart slowing its throb and thinking of the things he could have said, that he should have said. "You were trying to keep up with me?" He laughed. "I was trying not to let you pass me! Male bravado, you know." Oh, they would have shared a good laugh on the corner together. Where were those words when they were needed?
He quickened his pace. That first part was the toughest hill but it was just two hundred feet. He was taking the short way home and needed to make this exercise count to make up for the shorter distance.
Bending his head under the sun's increasing heat, he lifted his eyes toward the horizon and walked faster.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com