I took a different route to work today.
My morning path wound through neighborhoods with which I am familiar but rarely travel during the early hours. Its sidewalks, broken and crooked, bore the steps of children in uniforms or blue jeans, with bags slung on their backs, sweaters dangling from their arms. I passed a woman wearing blue to boast her allegiance to the local baseball team, a chunky woman with a broad smile who seemed to look straight into my eyes as I paused to check for traffic from the crossing alley. I returned her smile and eased my car forward, letting my glance linger, become a stare. I wondered why she held her head so high.
At the last moment, I chose against stopping for fruit and cottage cheese at the QuikTrip and drove on, to the bank and then the office. As I pulled into the space in front of my building, a woman with flying grey braids, carrying a motorcycle helmet, emerged from the neighboring coffee shop. She lowered her lithe body onto an impossibly large bike, tossed the mess of hair backwards and set the bright red helmet on her head.
I got out of the car and grabbed my computer bag and purse, and looked again at the woman with the gypsy hair. She seemed the sort of person you would only see on city streets, loose, vibrant and bold. For a moment, I thought I knew her; thought I recognized the iron set of her jaw and the bright gleam in her eyes. But the moment faded, and I saw her for a stranger. She revved her motor and drew away from the curb, leaving me standing, with my burdens, wishing for her casual ease of being.