No one really knew her.
She was unassuming. Alone. And quiet.
She lived quietly in a small house she moved to after her father died. He died eight years after her mother. She cared for them both while working full time. Her life was all about providing. Providing them comfort and care, providing for herself financially. When they were both gone she sold the house she had lived in with them. And moved to a quiet street, in the small house. An alley ran behind her house, a stream ran on the other side of the alley.
Her interactions with others was limited to work, or shopping or banking. People were pleasant enough to her, even if they thought her a little odd. It’s not that people avoided her, nor did she avoid people. She and they, they just didn’t make an effort to connect. So connections were never attempted. And never really thought of.
She had no real friends. Acquaintances at work. No family.
But her little town was home to her.
It started one night when she couldn’t sleep. Rather, she couldn’t sleep any longer. She found she lived best on five hours of uninterrupted sleep. She would read a book until she fell asleep. She would watch the news when she woke up and until she got ready for work.
One morning she awoke at three a.m. Like she always did. She didn’t want to watch the news. It was never anything good and made her feel helpless. She didn’t like feeling helpless. Something prompted her to go for a walk. She dressed warmly for the night air was chilled. And she walked. She returned in time to get ready for work.
She never told anyone of her walks. But they became part of her routine. She decided three mornings a week were enough. Though she never chose a day, she let the day choose her. It might be three mornings in a row, or one morning and then not another morning for four more days.
But she always made sure to go out at least three times a week.
She learned every crack in a two mile radius of her house. Every alley. Every street. Every house. She recognized dogs barking and knew when lights would be off or on.
No one knew.
She realized no one knew. At one point she acquired a pea shooter and always carried it, and navy beans, with her. She practiced shooting those beans at home in her basement. Making sure she could use the shooter quickly and silently. She did this after thinking she should learn to protect herself. But as much as she was unseen during the light of day, she was completely invisible at night. No one knew she was out there.
She knew where to walk, from behind her house, down the alley, or even down in the stream if the weather was warm and the stream was only inches high.
She knew what was going on more than anyone else.
She witnessed stolen kisses, angry words and blows, surprises being set up for teenagers getting cars, or Christmas presents being snuck into garages after children were fast asleep.
The pea shooter came in handy. And she became quite handy with it. The first time she witnessed angry words it bothered her. She stayed hidden where she was, because she knew every place to hide, but wondered if she would do anything if it escalated and someone needed help. The first time she heard the words, it quickly de-escalated, and she didn’t have to answer that question. But it bothered her not knowing if she would help or not. Of course she wanted to think she would, but she didn’t really know, not ever having had to.
But one night, the angry words carried blows with them. She was unseen. They were outside by a car. The man yelling, and then…slap! He hit her. She had her pea shooter and navy beans out and firing within seconds. She aimed for the neck. And she shot those beans randomly but with precision. The man, this time, raised his hand to his neck. Looking around. He had no idea what it was. He turned back to the woman and raised his hand to slap her, he spun when the bean snapped into his cheek.
He looked around. Yelling. The woman was looking around at what he was looking at. He tried telling her something was stinging or biting him.
She remained hidden. The man’s anger had turned to something else. For now, he wasn’t hitting.
It wasn’t always a man doing the hitting. And these things weighed heavy on her. To see people who thought this was part of love. She never had love, other than for her parents, but she knew love never had a hand of hate in it.
She took to practicing the pea shooter even more after that. She had been scared. As the years went by, she became a sharp shooting pea shooter. It made her chuckle to think of herself as that. A sharp shooting pea shooter. Sadly, she had to use it more often than she ever thought she would have to. Fortunately, always with the same results. There would be confusion on what was happening and she would be getting yelled at. Even though the yeller had no idea who or what they were yelling at.
Of course she had no one to tell any of this to.
But her neighborhood was one of the safest in town. For decades. People started talking about how safe they felt. Yet, there were those few who would say they were creeped out at night to go outside. They felt like they were being watched. Those few never lasted long in the neighborhood.
Her decades of walking, alone, at night, along the alleys and the unlit streets, filled her with a purpose.
She witnessed peace. Loneliness. Love. She watched heartbreak and heartache.
She began to piece together the stories of the people. Some of those people never knew where the help came from when they would find small gifts of something they needed left in their yard, on their porch, or in front of their garage.
She created a peace and security. Though she herself didn’t even know this. She was just walking. In silence. Obscure. Existing silently in her purpose.
She walked the streets until she could no longer walk them.
But no one ever knew what made them feel safe.
And no one ever knew she was there.
And no one ever knew when she was gone.
And what she created lasted for a very long time.
Her life was a story. She smiled more after she started walking. And when she could no longer walk, and closed her eyes to life, she did so in peace.
And what she never knew, was who was watching her, watch over you.
Dedicated to all of the stories we don’t know. I know they exist.