He Wears a Gray Scarf

I keep walking behind this same guy, from one building to the next, then back again. He has on a gray scarf and a demeanor that says he knows he belongs here, that he’s confident in his steps. There is some gray in his hair too, to match the gray of his scarf, or at least a near match. I know this because I’ve been behind him more often than not. He is me, just a few steps earlier. I do not begrudge him that.

After all, he holds open all the doors for me.

I thanked him for his generosity, at least the first time, with that initial door, but that’s the only time we’ve spoken, lost as we both are in our own worlds and in our own thoughts. He said “you’re welcome,” but I’m unsure whether or not he meant it. It was in a low tone, and he didn’t look behind him at the time, so it could have been just the whistling of the wind.

It is definitely windy today, and with the snow on the ground it seems more like winter than winter did — it being spring, at least by the calendar’s denotation. But I am vibrant today, with a jaunty spring to my step, even though the person I hoped would be in isn’t. I will not let that bring me down. The man wearing the gray scarf, though, seems somehow sad, as if he’s trodden these paths too many times to remember. I wonder if I shouldn’t be following him.

But I’m not following him — not really. We walk in single file, although I tend to avoid the impressions his shoes make in the patches of snow on the ground. He is slightly shorter than I am, so I can see beyond him, at the barren trees and the large buildings we are headed toward. Yet I am always drawn in again by his scarf, and his hair, and the similarities, as if he has colored his hair to match his scarf, at least in places. It’s stupid to think that, but I cannot control my mind in those moments.

And I too want a scarf. No, not to be his twin, but to keep my neck warm. It’s April, though, and I refuse to give in to the elements, to pretend it’s still winter because the weather has already fallen on its knees in supplication. Funny, too, that he wears the scarf but there is no hat on his head, that he wears no coat, just a sport jacket. It’s as if he too is trying not to give in, but in other ways from me. I wear a coat and hat, but no scarf.

I tried to dodge him this last time. I tried to zig when he zagged, but it made no difference. I did not arrive at the door before him, even though I desperately wanted to. I wanted to see if he would thank me for holding the door open for him, but I will have to wait for another time, for another opportunity. And I might not be as jaunty then. I might be weighted down with the intensity of the world on my shoulders, and I might not say you’re welcome.

I wonder if he’ll wear that scarf again, or if he’ll color his hair. He doesn’t strike me as vain, but who knows? But who knows?


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