When I was in high school, I used to walk up Smith Street to my dad’s office. I’d start at LaSalle Academy and make my way past the houses, law offices, gas stations and plazas. I’d pass the North Providence town line and haul my backpack almost to the end of the street. I never had a problem with doing the walk, because even on a busy road, you’d catch glimpses of people’s lives as they walked past you or you stopped at a light and listened to the music coming out of their open car windows.
“I started walking last April when the weather warmed up, and I asked him if he wanted to join me. I live near the Walgreen’s and he lives closer to where the college is, so we would meet up near my place and go from there.”
They had dated briefly at the beginning of the year, but both their schedules were so tight, it was hard to ever make plans to see each other. They chose to interpret that as “the timing being off” and they let any chance of future dates go by the wayside.
“That would happen to me all the time. I kept saying, you know, that my work was my main priority — and it was, but I had, you know, convinced myself that I would meet someone who could fit into this crazy schedule I had, and now, looking back, I see that nobody was going to. There was nowhere to put anybody. My life from the time I woke up until I went to bed was work, work, work. I don’t know how I thought I was going to be able to start a relationship with all that going on around me.”
Like many young professionals, she found herself having to reorganize her entire life once going into the office was no longer an option. Not only was she now working from home, but drinks with coworkers after hours and going out on weekends to try and maintain some semblance of a personal life was out the window as well.
“I thought, ‘Let’s try walking.’ Everybody’s walking. I live in this nice area. Let me go for a walk.”
But she didn’t want to walk alone.
“I had met him through a friend, and conveniently, we lived near each other. I don’t know why, but I shot him a message one day, and I said, ‘I’m going for a walk. Would you like to join me?’ He said he would like that, and we started walking together every day after that.”
If you’re one of those people who started walking as the result of the pandemic, you might have noticed places you thought were familiar take on a new light. Driving by something and walking past it are two very different things. She was discovering that about her neighborhood, and about her walking partner as well.
“The thing is, you go on a few dates with someone, and you think you’ve got a sense of who they are. We were walking every day, and I’m learning all these interesting things about him. Why didn’t I hear any of that before? I would stop him and say ‘Why didn’t you tell me that before?’ and either he had told me and I wasn’t listening or I hadn’t shown enough of an interest in him to the point where he even wanted to tell me anything. He knew things weren’t going anywhere because I was so preoccupied. I was so mad at myself, because he turned out to be this great guy, and I had written him off.”
She found herself in the odd position of falling in love with someone she had already dismissed from her life. Luckily for her, he was enjoying getting to know a different side of her. The two soon found themselves going walking more than once a day, running nearby errands on foot, even making trips to downtown and back.
“I tell everybody I got in great shape trying to make up for lost time. We both got addicted to it though, I think, to spending time with each other and to walking when we could. We couldn’t go in anywhere at first, because of COVID, but we would get fresh air, and see other people walking, and just get out of the house for a little bit and feel like we were taking back a small part of our lives.”
By the time things started to settle down, she had already determined that she wanted him to be more than a walking partner.
“We started to go for a walk. It was a Sunday afternoon. I kept trying to start the conversation, and I was so nervous about it, I almost walked into traffic. He knew something was up with me. When I told him that I wanted another shot at us dating, he was so relieved, because he thought I was going to cut him loose again. We were both feeling like we didn’t want to let this go this time around, and, you know, we both feel very appreciative that we got a second chance, because not everybody gets that.”
If you go walking down Smith Street, you may see two people walking by you or on the other side of the road. They might look like a couple that’s always been in love, but not every happy ending is the result of a fairy tale.
“We still walk every day. I still work hard. I love my work. I’m proud of my work. But this year has taught me that work isn’t going to be there for you when you’re having a hard time with the world. You need people for that. You need people.”
Sometimes you need to be forced to take a second look to see what it is you almost missed.