I noticed her first because of the baby carriage. It’s an expensive one, the BOB brand, which is common on West Anchorage trails. She pushes it with purpose. From a distance, she could be somebody’s grandmother out for a walk, her long gray hair pulled back in a braid. But as you come nearer, you see that that there is no baby. That realization is a little haunting. Something about an empty baby carriage.
It’s been maybe five years that she and I have been passing each other. Usually it’s somewhere in Spenard or downtown. Her carriage is usually filled with plastic bags, or a shopping basket lifted from a grocery store, or a cardboard sign. For a year or so she passed my house on Arctic Boulevard every day at almost exactly the same time. I theorized she was riding the bus to pass the time and getting off at a nearby stop. I got used to her. I noticed when she didn’t come by.
She has a sixth sense. She can always tell when I’m looking at her. She always stares back until I turn my head away. It used to rattle me as I drove by her, but I’ve started to think that she notices me too. It’s the closest she can come to saying hello.
Some days she looks unkempt. Others, her hair is neatly combed. Sometimes, when the sun is out, she wears a pair of Ray-Ban style sunglasses. Once, deep in the coldest part of winter, I saw her stopped on the side of the road near my house, shouting at passing cars. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I called police.
“She’s mentally ill, I think. Maybe homeless,” I told the dispatcher. “I’ve seen her walking by here for years. She pushes a baby carriage. But today something is off.”
She wasn’t herself, I said. But as I heard my words, I realized I didn’t know anything about her. They sent a couple officers. I watched them drive down and talk to her. She got in one of their cars. As the car passed by my house, I looked for her face in the back window, but she didn’t turn her head.