I am the walker. My steps are firm and powerful as I make my way over the concrete sidewalks of my city. Miles and miles of streets lay behind me like a dark ribbon stretching out into infinity. Walking is my way of life, my religion. The streets I walk on are my gods.
It wasn't always this way. I came here as a foreigner, alien to the elegant avenues and the smog that stuck to my skin. I was young, looking to establish myself in a new land. I started to work giving classes to high-school students failing Literature or History, and I found myself suddenly traveling to the ends of the known universe for nothing more than a few dirty, scrunched-up bills thrust into my hands. The place where I was staying was cheap, and the owner was eccentric. One of the rules was that once I left in the morning, I couldn't go back until the night. This left my days full of gaps in which I had little choice but to drag my feet along step after step. I was hesitant, unsure of where I was going and how to get there. By the end of the day, I was bone tired, and my body throbbed in pain. But I managed to survive off of those scrunched-up bills, even if it meant rice for dinner night after night. Day after day. Month after month.
Subtly, so subtly that I almost didn't notice, I began to develop favorite streets. The short passage with dollhouses lined up one next to another. The giant looming trees on the avenue, the branches hanging down and embracing the corner café. The maze of nonsensical blocks that make up an entire neighborhood. Every street, no matter how small and insignificant, had something striking that was begging to be seen. And I dedicated myself to seeing.
Not everything was uninhibited discovery, of course. I was robbed, took the wrong buses, and ended up in the wrong neighborhoods. I was approached by unsavory people; I saw things I'd rather not see. But little by little, I made the city mine. I was no longer unsure of where I was going. I carried the grit from the streets in my blood.
Eventually, I moved into my own tiny closet of an apartment. At first, I would leave for my students' houses, listen to their lives while trying to get them to understand what they were missing, and return to my own home.
I found a need growing inside of myself to throw myself back out onto the cobblestones. I needed to be out. I needed to absorb the city through my skin. So I did. I spent as little time as possible inside my four walls.
As time passed, people often asked me why I stayed here, in this place so many seemed to affectionately abhor. I must have fallen in love; they would tell me. Perhaps, I would think without saying. But not with a person.
I can't even remember how long it's been now. But I am no longer hesitant or afraid. My steps are strong and sure, and I feel the connection to the entrails of the metropolis shiver its way into my bones with every footfall. I live for my strolls over the familiar lanes, relishing the small details surrounding me. To wander is my true calling. I am the walker. And with every new corner I round, I know I have found my home.
By Calla Smith
Calla Smith grew up in a rural community on the Western Slope of Colorado, where she quickly discovered her love of reading, writing, and language. After completing a foreign exchange program in Argentina in high school, she went on several trips throughout South America before settling in Buenos Aires in 2009. There she worked as an ESL teacher while studying translation. She now enjoys city life in her adopted country and continues to explore her passion of writing.