Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Dialog in Fiction

Richard Lawrence Cohen posted this fictional vignette, Evening Ritual, on his wonderful blog. I was moved to do a spinoff:

He read Richard Lawrence Cohen's 'Evening Ritual' and he began staring at the screen. He stared so hard that the letters blurred and all he saw was his own evening ritual, similar to the man in Cohen's piece.

He walks through his own neighborhood nearly every night. But unlike Cohen's man, he doesn't wonder what may be happening in the houses he passes. Were they all dark and unilluminated by TVs, chandeliers, or computer screens,
that would suit him fine. So would the absence of barking dogs he feels he must dodge along the way. And while he employs his penchant for gregariousness--whether it's natural or acquired, he doesn't know--to say, "Hello" to every person along the way and even to stop for short interchanges, he'd rather not stop.

He pictures himself being interviewed by Diane Sawyer or Barbara Walters and being asked, "What do you want most from life?" His answer surprises even himself. "I want," he says, "to be left alone."

Alone? But you love your wife and your kids and family. You love your friends. You're a people person. "Yes," he thinks. "But I get tired."

Maybe that's why he walks when he does. He times their starts at about forty-five minutes before sundown. The timing allows him to bury his nose in a book while walking briskly. He goes to a different world and if while there, he
accidentally misses the opportunity to greet a passing jogger or the new homeowner watering his lawn, so much the better. He wants to escape. He wants to be alone.

Usually, for the last fifteen minutes of his walk, the sun sinks too far for him to read any longer.

Sometimes, in the dark, he prays.

Recently, he's taken to counting. Steps. Especially after reading that Amish men take an average of 14,000 steps a day, while the average American takes 5000 daily. In the dark, he counts the steps for the last portion of his walk and then, extrapolating, calculates that his evening ritual involves the taking of about 4800 steps. "I'll catch up to those
Amish," he vows to himself.

He arrives at his house. His wife asks how his walk went. "Fine," he tells her, grateful for his vacation from humanity, grateful to be back home.

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