Morning walk

Dear Walking Group Women,

I see you, my siblings, and I ignore you. Namaste. Or Peace Be With You. Or May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour. Or whatever version of in-tune, en pointe (on point? On pointe? On-ee point-ee?), in-the-moment greeting du jour holds currency right now. And yes, I did roll my eyes at your Namaste, so heartily imbued with an affected spiritual significance that a humble ‘hello’ just doesn’t convey.

It’s not you, it’s me. I am not a morning person. 

Or maybe I am, and by the time I’ve made beds, made lunches, emptied the dishwasher, put away any draining dishes, washed whatever’s in the sink, had my coffees and medication and vitamins, seen my family off to work and school and university, and finally gotten around to walking the dogs, it feels like half my day is already over. And there’s still a list of chores and commitments a mile long to go.

Okay, well, maybe it’s you too. 

When you walk, four-abreast, spreading your knock-off-LuluLemon selves across the footpath, deep in conversation, oblivious to anyone not part of your clique, please know that I am not going to step off the path for you. I will not apologise for taking up space and I will not make myself smaller. Not even for you. Read my t-shirt.

Instead, I’ll square off, lean slightly forward with my right shoulder leading, and barrel forward as if you do not exist — the way my sister does when she walks down the main street of the city through grey-suited clouds of businessmen. My mouth will be a straight line, lips sucked in and almost invisible — the way my mother’s mouth sits as she thinks of all the people whose bad behaviour she’s tolerated. My eyes will stare through you as if you were no more than the figments of my imagination that always accompany me, the wisps of whispering wraiths of past conversations I’ve edited and polished to more favourable outcomes a hundred times in my head. My hands will bunch into tightly clenched fists — the way they have done in defence and frustration a thousand thousand times over. 

I will no longer tolerate careless disregard from strangers. I will no longer endure the thoughtless erasure of my existence. I have no grace left to offer those who won’t even acknowledge the air I displace.

I’m done with making myself small and quiet and agreeable. I’m done with conforming to tropes of acquiescence and demureness. I’m done apologising for occupying space, for requiring respect, for demanding decency. And I’m doing it before I get angry or despondent.

Brace yourselves, siblings. I’m barrelling through and I’m not looking back.

This post was written for the YeahWrite #457 Nonfiction grid. Click the badge to read other entries.

10 Comments on “Morning walk”

  1. Asha, now I understand your comment on mine. I’ve had that same, “Are you kidding? Why do you assume I’ll move?” But I can’t imagine what it’s like to face that all the time. For sure, it’s not your job to move any more than it’s your job to teach them to change their expectations. What I wish is that I could get enough of a conversation going to get privileged people to see how harmful their expectations are.

    • Thank you for seeing this! I love you for trying. The more voices we have, the more likely we are to effect change. ❤️

  2. I love the rythm to the way that you wrote this. The strength in your tone and words is tangible, and that last line ties everything up nicely. This piece has really made me think.

  3. The courage in your words and your attitude towards “the siblings” – well, I would be fortunate if I am able to gather that courage and use it in my life, Asha! After reading your post, I wondered if I could ever barrel through, with complete disregard to those who think it’s their right to push around, throw their weight around.

    • I should probably own up that I’ve been known to punch men who harassed me, so this is pretty in keeping with my nature, Shilpa! 😬

  4. Great piece. I found myself laughing at the funny parts and also cheering you on. I too can’t stand those folks who seem to think they own the sidewalk or are oblivious to others walking there. When I worked in the city, this was a daily thing. One day I got fed up and decided I wasn’t scooting to the side anymore. I raised my chin high, squared my shoulders, and barreled forward along my path. And to my astonishment, it worked, my assertiveness seemed to be noticed, and people acknowledged my space. There were a couple of accidental glancing blows to the shoulders, but no big deal. Then I felt bad, like I had become the one who thought I owned the sidewalk. Ha! Old habits die hard. But I try not to move aside anymore (with exceptions made if I need to avoid a truly injurious collision).

    • Thanks, Jen! Omg, city walking is the worst. I totally hear you on the guilt of becoming one of the oblivious — I try not to be an ass about it. I move out of the way for folks who need more of the path (there are several wheelchair users, elderly, and folks with walking frames around my local park), but walking groups of the able bodied who insist on walking abreast? Nope.

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