One of the things I love about living in Arlington is that while it has its share of yuppies and those who have already moved about as upwardly as one can, there is still a certain element that adds flavor to our neighborhood.
There’s the running woman, for example. She runs everywhere. When she is clearly on her way to work or on her way home for work, dressed in her most business-like finest, she runs. She runs to and from the grocery store, bags of produce in hand. She runs to the CVS down the street. She runs everywhere. Except when she is walking her cat, a marmalade creature who weighs a good 30 pounds or more. Her cat barely walks, so when she walks her cat, she not only doesn’t run, she also doesn’t walk. She just stands there holding her cats leash while he sits in the grass, soaking up the sunshine.
There’s the Guatamalan woman who pushes a stroller filled with disposable chafing dishes of home-cooked food, selling plates of sustenance to the day laborers who have never seen the inside of a kitchen and have no woman in their life to feed them. I like to imagine that she doles out advice and kind words with her plates of rice and meat, and that these men feel just a little bit less lonely when they eat a dinner she made.
My favorite, though. My all-time favorite. It has to be the twins. We always seem to run into them at our local Harris Teeter. They are completely identical. At their advanced age, easily in their 60s or 70s, they still dress completely alike, usually in a brightly colored windbreaker, matching berets, navy blue or red polyester slacks, and nearly sparkling white Keds. They each push a folding shopping cart, and they walk in perfect step, the smell of moth balls wafting behind them.
Over the years we’ve lived here Roger and I have imagined their conversations. Surely they were fantastical and worthy of the next David Lynch movie. We imagined their lives, the events that led to them walking the aisles of a grocery store as a perfectly matching unit.
Then one day I forgot a bell pepper, and Roger ran off to get it for me while I looked at the nut butters and jams. On his way back he passed the pickles, and there they were huddled over jars of gherkins, murmuring. Murmuring too softly for him to hear, but he did hear something. Just a little snippet.
“I really do prefer dill pickles.”
That was it. I mean if you’ve lived an identical life with someone else for 60-plus years, don’t you think you’d already know they preferred dill pickles? It was so normal and strange at the same time. Just like Arlington, and just like life.