The Perpetual Wanderer

by Al Drinkle

There’s a guy in my neighbourhood who roams the streets ceaselessly. I’ve witnessed his proclivities for years now and neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor the gloom of night keeps him from his wanders; but unlike Herodotus’ subject, he has no apparent mission or directive.

His dark, mid-length hair is exceedingly oily, framing a sallow face and gigantic wire-rimmed eyeglasses. He never varies from a 1980s ski jacket in the winter and a grey T-shirt in the summer, defaulting to one or the other in spring and autumn. His head and hands are always bare and not even the most intimidating drifts of snow can dissuade him from wearing once-white Reebok high-tops.

He walks with a conviction that borders on haste, yet seemingly without destination. Aimless he may be, but listless he’s not. His brow is ever-furrowed in agonizing contemplation, obliging no respite to mind or foot. He’s impervious to fellow pedestrians, be they human or canine, and fears not the threat of traffic. Sidewalk, byway and bikepath are all the same to him, as are all times of day and night. Is he a descendant of Cain? Or Renfrew’s own Kant?

Shortly after 5 a.m. this morning, I was out for an amble with my elderly dog. While admiring the low crescent moon a few blocks from our home, we were startled by the sound of strident footsteps. The perpetual wanderer tramped towards us and when he was a few feet away, I nodded in salutation and croaked a perfunctory “good morning”. He strode by without acknowledging our existence and in turn, my dog seemed oblivious to his.

I watched the streetlights gleam phantasmically off his oleaginous coiffure as he walked away. Is he in pursuit or retreat? Is he just a ghost? Or am I the ghost? My dog and I looked at each other for a moment before she traipsed onto the grass and absentmindedly micturated upon a twig.