there is a boy in my neighborhood who never smiles and is always alone.
i see him at least once a week, walking up and down the street, eyes trained on the sidewalk.
in the three years i've lived in this house, the boy has become a bit of a mystery.
i often see him taking his walk at a time he should be in school. (he looks to be about high-school-Freshman age - tall and filled out, but with a young face.) and i rarely see him with a backpack, though a few times i have, so he MUST go to school somewhere.
i'm not creepy enough to follow him, and i'm too shy (too scared?) to say hi. he looks so focused, staring down at the street. what if i interrupt his concentration? what if he can't speak to say hi back?
so i just observe him and wonder about him, like i do most strangers.
also, in the three years i've lived here, i've had more than one frightening incident of seeing someone walking on the back wall of my yard, like a tightrope, at night. the first time, i hid in the dark, waiting to see what the shadowy man on the wall would do. the second time (after i had been burglarized and become neurotic about keeping people off my property), i shouted for the stranger to go away, and they did.
today, those two mysteries collided.
i was outside with my laptop this morning, catching up on the interwebs and enjoying perfect 60-degree sweater weather and a nice hot cup of coffee, when i heard a rustle in my palm tree. i looked up, and from the palm fronds, out pops the boy, walking my wall, one foot in front of the other.
as usual, he was focused on his feet, so he didn't notice me, standing right there in broad daylight on my patio watching him. i stayed still like a hunter until he got all the way to the end of the wall and spun around. that's when he teetered, the toes of both feet gripping one sharp edge of the block wall, his arms making huge circles as he struggled for balance. he was about to face-plant right into my brick fire pit.
so i did what anyone would do. i shouted, "Whoa! WHOA! Careful!"
i surprised him right back onto his heels, and when he was balanced again, he gave me the biggest grin and two thumbs up. then he went right back to walking my wall, like it was no big thing.
it was a good moment for three reasons. 1) i am no longer afraid of the shadow walking my walls at night. 2) i saw the lonely boy smile for the first time. and 3) i decided to write a story about him. i just don't know what it is yet.