The old woman walked hesitantly, one foot purposefully and strategically shoved in front of the other, pushing her way along the boardwalk.
Or so it is called. Even though, really, is was a concrete sidewalk bearing absolutely no similarity or reference to boards, like the kind populating beachfront paths in herring bone pattern in places such as Atlantic City or Seaside Heights. But that’s a definitional quibble, one supposes. This was New England, not New Jersey. And that’s the difference between living at the “ocean” and on the “shore.”
Up and back the 100 yards or so bordering the grayish sand, more or less flatly distributed on the beach three to five feet below the concretewalk. Methodical. Goal-driven. Or at least so it seemed to the observer unacquainted with her.
After a period of time, the old woman began to accessorize. At this point in one’s life, neither jewelry nor shoes are added. But a walker is. And the old woman once again plodded and pushed her way the whole football field of the concrete boardwalk.
It was study in determination. Or obstinacy. Maybe defiance. If there’s a meaningful difference.
And this went on. For a while. As in a few years. Until one early summer the old woman was joined by a younger one.
Walking backward was an exercise gimmick popular a decade or so ago. One of my students wrote a short feature on the subject that was published in a popular magazine.
But the younger woman wasn’t exercising. She was assisting and guiding the older, more hesitant and less sure-footed one. Arms outstretched, the younger one clasped the older one’s hands and wrists and they both danced their way together on the now less-than 100 yard “concretewalk.”
And this, too, like the previous routines, continued for a while. Until it stopped. Completely.
I don’t know where the older woman went. Though I have a (grim) suspicion. Even though I never knew her or, for that matter, spoke with her. But I’m sure the younger one does.
And she’s not around to ask. Probably because she has a new partner.
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