About a month ago, well before Corvid-19 had entered the vocabulary, a young man started to walk up and down the road outside my front window. He has done so every day since, for hours on end. I see him first thing in the morning when I open the curtains, and he’s usually still there when I close them at night. Sometimes he lengthens the distance he walks before turning to retrace his steps, but he never seems to stop. He stares straight ahead, oblivious to other people and unresponsive to attempts at communication.
I have no idea who this young man is, or where or how he lives, eats and sleeps. He is of East Asian appearance and well kempt, invariable dressed in dark trousers and dark hoodie, the hood always down. He doesn’t appear to be at all emotionally distressed, merely ‘in the zone.’ I wonder if he is meditating, something that maybe we might all benefit from in these strange times. Yet, and I feel ashamed to say this, I find myself unnerved by his daily ritual.
Maybe this can be put down to superstition. I come from the kind of old school Irish Catholic family for whom tales of the supernatural were ingrained in cultural heritage. As a child I would cower at mention of the Banshee, whose wailing cry was said to portend a death and who would exact terrible punishment on anyone who made off with the comb she used on her long white hair. In my imagination, the walking man also represents something potentially sinister, as if he is about to raise his dark hood and produce a scythe.
My normally rational self of course dismisses such thoughts as nonsensical. But I’m unnerved because these are far from normal times. I don’t really fear the walking man, I fear the coronavirus and the eerie state of mind it has instilled in so many of us across the globe. I suspect I’d be happier if I never saw the walking man again, but it’s the damned virus I want to wave goodbye to.