by melanie j zipin
She always walks on my left.
I don’t know why but if we switch sides, it feels weird.
Like something’s out of place.
She wears the same shirt every time.
It’s her walking shirt, I suppose.
A faded bright red, maybe in case she gets lost.
But I am the only one in danger of getting lost.
And it never occurs to me that the color of my shirt would make any difference.
If we walk single file, she always walks in front.
I like that I get to see, without being seen.
I listen to the sound of her boots crunch the frozen mud.
Her words travel back to me as her feet move forward.
I find this endlessly amusing that her feet go one direction as her words go another.
She breaks twigs as she goes.
Reaching out and snapping them from trees or scrubby bushes as we walk by.
I don’t think she notices that she does this.
Marking her trail, leaving evidence of our passing.
I touch things.
Sometimes on purpose.
Glancing my fingers over a protruding or especially enticing leaf.
Brushing against a snapped back twig.
Ducking under a tangle of branches snagging my hair, or the back of my shirt.
I pick up a rock with an odd shape, feeling its weight.
My eye catches a shiny vein of silver, or a piece of trash.
A bleached weathered bone or twisted rusting metal winking in the sunlight.
Remnants of another’s passing.
Some I put in my pocket. Most I replace.
I would rather be untraceable.