One foot behind the other.

by benkloester

Originally composed Sep 23 2012

Today I saw one of those perfect moments. You know the kind; that make the hairs of your arm snap upright and pull your very awareness – of yourself and the world – out of you and up, in an elevating spiral centered above the little space it is typically confined to – your head. But expanding, spreading its newly-found limbs until you feel as though you can almost see the tops of buildings and you’re aware of every little movement and sound and feature of every person and creature in sight.

It came in a place I hardly expected – my own street, Rua Augusta, in a part I hadn’t seen before. Away from the endless botecos and sprawling chairs and tables and beer and humanity. Further north, past even the seedy red-neon buildings and bustling brothels – still there despite Augusta’s supposed “image cleanup” – probably too busy to have ever noticed it.

I’d given up on finding the place I was meant to leave the car. I knew I was close, very close. But I also knew I was close to home, and I didn’t have to take it back until tomorrow anyway. I left it with the nice fellow at the parking lot, and started to make my way towards home on foot.

2 blocks later, something odd in my peripheral vision caused me to stop. I turned, and there across the street were 3 people. One, a Brazilian man in a motorcycle jacket, boots, and jeans, standing at a little door in a bigger roller-door, looking down the street, to two others about 5 and 10 meters away. Two others, girls, dressed in flowing whites, seemingly looking at him also, and backing away. Backing away ever so slowly, as though this man tied to them with the invisible cords of their gaze were defusing a bomb, and whilst they didn’t want to offend him by fleeing, near to him wasn’t exactly where they wanted to be.

The slow graceful movement continued. One bare foot meticulously placed behind the other, gaze steady ahead. And after only a few steps more, the invisible cords snapped, and I saw that it was just the two of them, our Brazilian bomb-disposal expert suddenly relegated to the sidelines. And there was no bomb to back away from – they were walking a slow, beautiful, barefooted, deliberate, backward walk down the filthy, dangerous streets of São Paulo for no reason other than to walk such a walk.

It was then that my heart spiraled out of my chest and I stood captivated, watching, as they slowly made their progress, not looking behind; always at the mercy of careless strangers and uneven pavement. It was beautiful, and captivating. Just as I was wondering what they would do if they hit such a pitfall, one’s foot came suddenly up against the corner of a carelessly placed steel maintenance cover, jarring it.

She curled up like an anemone, into herself and down to the ground in the same instant, and lay there motionless. The other, further along, didn’t pause but kept on, one foot behind the other, until she finally reached the corner, where she paused. As she spun slowly clockwise, carving a 450° arc with her gaze, the other slowly stood and resumed her halting progress.

From her corner, the first resumed that delicate deliberate step, receding one footfall after the other, disappearing at last around the corner, as her wraith-like companion flowed towards the corner herself. Reaching it, she too spun a slow arc and then, step by step, finally withdrew from sight.