We’re walking a deserted college campus on Day One of the Covid-19 Pandemic. In the distance, a man on a riding mower manicures a grassy field of green. He waves from afar. A man of stature. Retired military, I wonder? So I raise my right hand to my brow in salute, which he returns. Cass waves to him as we move on.
Returning on Day Two, we are the only walkers on the deserted college campus. Sure enough, the man on the riding mower sees us on a distant hillside. He salutes us. I return his salute, Cass waves to him, and we two move on.
Day Three confirms our new ritual. We eagerly salute and wave to our new friend. He just as eagerly responds. Cass and I devote the remainder of our walk to discussing how wonderful it is to construct a respectful friendship. At a distance, no less.
Day Four. Our new friend suddenly appears before our eyes. Closer than yesterday. Smile unhidden by a mask, we notice his silver goatee. He can’t help but notice mine. Our skin colors? Meaningless. Our smiles say it all.
The days pass, often without seeing our valued friend. After all, we’re merely aging walkers, immersed in our half-century tradition of walking together. He, on the other hand, is a working man with responsibilities. Sometimes we even worry about him. But on this cloudless and sunny morning our new friend drives a trio of subordinate workers down a dirt service road. Only yards away from us, he stops his truck, laughs loudly out the driver’s window, and speaks to us for the first time. “Well, well, well! How are y’all doin’ on this beautiful day?” His colleagues chuckle, unafraid to show their sincere liking for this man. We share their communal laughter. And the moment. The months pass quickly. Our respectful friendship and trust grow.