There’s a double row of poplars near my office and a paved footpath that runs between them for the eighth part of a mile. It’s a nice place to walk in the mid-afternoon when work begins to feel unsupportable. Half the office buildings in the area are empty, an effect of the recession, but I never get the path to myself. Inevitably, there are two or three others out with the same idea.
Sometimes I close my eyes while I walk and listen to the watery sound of the breeze in the branches. I imagine that I’m blind or outside on a starless, moonless night. I count paces with eyes shut, not slowing down. I dare myself to go twenty steps without looking. Thirty. Forty. I once made fifty steps before stumbling into a patch of ivy.
Walking the poplars this afternoon there was a man ahead of me who went the full distance without setting foot once on the pavement. He kept to the grassy border on the right instead, as if it weren’t enough simply to be away from his office and his work, to be outside and under the trees, but he had to have earth beneath him too.