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Portrait of a Man Walking


This is the unexciting story a man walking.

This is the unexciting story of a man walking in the same way that Herman Melville wrote a story about a man boating. One could argue that Meville's bloated, gastronomic word-vomit was about the trials of whaling and the slow decent into madness of a bold person desperate for confirmation of his dramatic interludes. But it was also the story of a man boating. And this is the story of a man walking. A man meandering and scuttling and placing one foot anterior to a second. Left. Right. Left. Right. 

Some stories describe the walking in excruciating detail. The sinews snap and twang as each foot pronates with a slight roll. Squinting, the man pushes closer to his mutt, a small and exquisite beast. Wind whips gently from the east, curling and twitching past the ears of both man and beast. A whisper, only slight, calls to past victories and defeats. The man struggles on against undying and eternal suffering. Is this all there is to walking, he wonders? The beast turns his muscular neck to the side as if to break free of tomorrow. But this is not that story at all.

This is the story of a man walking. A dog walking. And the six minutes of happiness we all have. But what of the man? His visage, his stance, his haunches reign in a certain unimportance in his walking story. 

That he walks, rather than where or why or who walks, frames the story. That he walks with a dog - perhaps an implication of loyalty, love, or courage - changes very little. This story is simple and direct: a man walks and a dog walks and they walk together in the cold. It is the kind of cold that, to describe the bone rattling wind or howling, blistering thoughts pushed up by it, would do a disservice to the real heroes of the frigid north. White Fang knew cold in the Yukon. This man and his dog know only that special temperature. That brisk moment of time where memories swell back and a hypnotic trance entice them. Left. Right. Left. Left. The man trips as he walks. The dog does not.

The six minutes of happiness, the man thinks, are those perfect moments everyone has. Some have more, some fewer. This man can imagine about six minutes worth. To some, an eternity. Even the dog has his moments but, being a dog, they are partially colorblind moments. Is this the story of the man's moments? No, it's the story of a man walking who has 6 minutes of happiness running through is head in the wispy chill. A long, warm embrace under a fluttering street lamp. A quiet moment in the wilderness, alone against infinity. The man walks on. The dog strolls a bit, bites its foot, and snakes forward. 

There are billions of destinations for a walk. One can stroll to a bistro or trot to a hardware store. But stories of destinations lack the eulogy for the journey. This man who walks here, he knows this. And he knows the cold as he walks. There are children, downtrodden and plebeian in their attire, who stagger on without shoes in the bitter cold of the Great Lakes desperate for sustenance. Their story is one of heartbreak and defeat, moments of virtual and loss. They have six minutes and bite the freezing air through yellowed teeth. Though they walk as vagabonds, this is certainly not their story. Their story is bitter, swallowed like a broken pill. 

Left. Right. Left. Right. Stop.

Sometimes six minutes is all you need of happiness. Sometimes those minutes seem disgusting and twisted to anyone else. To some, the sweet pain of a bent vein and a heavy shot craft 30 or 40 seconds. Others imagine moments of sexual violence and a calm dominatrix with wavy red hair. Dogs have their own moments of confused scents and distorted sounds. Creepy crawling bent and slightly erratic romps in fields of powdery clover. Naps by the fire. By this is the story of a dog who walks. And man who walks. 

Cars pass by in stunted spurts of city life. A shiny and bland new Toyota, appliance-like in its argentum hue. A puttering LTD lurks heavily against the curb, a once proud master of the concrete jungle holding dearly onto one dangling headlight and a lightless tail. Lurching to a stop at a cerise orb, they click and clang and yet do not disturb the walk. Hulking behemoths of sad modern requirement. They have no moments or minutes or thoughts. They have only purpose and existence.

A candle twitches on a windowsill in late fall. Lovers speak gentle to each other and then fall into a pile of snow with the weight of a feather. And still a man walks on with a dog, rudderless and ambivalent to the insignificance of his action. This is the unexciting story a man walking. 

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