I leave my house to go for a walk. I walk uphill, because I like the cardio. Except that's not always true. I also walk uphill if I'm pushing the jogging stroller. You can't rock a golden yellow double jogging stroller walking in the ghetto. That shit just ain't right.
So if I walk uphill with the jogger, I see other moms, mid-thirties, early forties, also rocking jogging strollers and toddlers. We smile at each other as we pass. I don't know any other middle class moms around here. Our circle of friends fell apart right before I got pregnant when everyone else got divorced or procreated and high-tailed it to the 'burbs, and we never got around to making any more.
I wonder when I see these mothers walking with their jogging strollers and yoga pants, while I'm walking with my jogging stroller and yoga pants: are we the same? I don't think we're the same because I don't want to smile as we pass. I want to look down at the ground, avoid eye contact, walk fast, hide in the hood of my XXL black hoodie. But maybe they don't want to make eye contact either. Maybe they do it for the same reason I do it: that's how shit's done in this neighborhood. And it has nothing to do with them that I'd rather avoid eye contact. I've been known to pretend I don't see my own friends at the grocery store. I'm just like that sometimes.
If I don't take the jogger I might go uphill and I might go downhill. Usually I start off going up for the cardio, but eventually I take a turn that leads me back downhill and I cross that notorious street--every town has one, cities have a bunch of 'em--that street where the neighborhood officially becomes no good anymore. The windows in the houses are boarded up; there's garbage in the streets and the sweet smell of blunt wrappers and weed wafting through the air. If I pass someone walking here, we both do the same thing: look down at the ground, avoid eye contact, walk fast, hide in the hoods of our XXL black hoodies. Aaaaahhhhh.....
There's always a certain sense of relief for me when I cross that invisible class line, over to the the wrong side of the tracks, a sense of freedom, like I'm going back home, like I'm safe in anonymity and no one will bother or question me. Unless I have the jogging stroller. Then I just feel like a tool who probably stumbled into the wrong part of town accidentally.
I wonder if I'll always breathe a little easier on the wrong side of the tracks. I don't know. I have to walk back uphill to get home. And that golden yellow double jogger is mine; I chose it myself after searching long and hard on Craigslist. But so is the oversized black hoodie. I think I'll always be standing right at the intersection of that street that separates us. No matter where I walk: uphill, downhill, or for how long, I'll always have one foot on either side of the tracks. Maybe that is where I belong.