It looked like she was walking on water.
I actually had to do a double take to make sure I was seeing her. The LA river (as it is called) NEVER has people walk in it… yet there she was… trudging along… alone. It was weird.
My husband and I walk over a small bridge that crosses the river everyday and when I saw her, I stopped short and asked my husband, “Can you see that?” He did and we walked down to the walkway that was closer to the river and the out-of-place walking woman.
She was about my age, wearing black pants, a black jacket and rain boots. She was disheveled and sort of muddy.
“Are you OK?” I shouted down to her.
“Yep. I’m fine.” She responded as if it was the most normal, natural thing to be strolling along this cement river.
I looked down at her. “Really?” I didn’t believe it. Why would ANYONE be walking in the river? I mean, how did she even get in there? It made no sense.
“Yes. I’m just getting my wallet.”
What??! Her wallet?!?! She’s obviously a little off. My husband and I kept walking along the upper path as she walked and splashed below.
“How will you get out?” These walls are really high – I’d guess 30 feet of so- and there are no stairs or rope vines or any way to get out.
CLIMB??!?! “OK… but I’d feel my comfortable if we sort of follow you up here till you get out… in case you need help…. OK?”
“Yeah. That’s OK. Thanks.”
My husband walked along the path as she sloshed 30 feet below. She looked up at us, “This is hard. Harder than I thought.”
“I bet. Where was you wallet?”
“I threw it in here the other night. I thought I was being followed by this guy talking really loudly and I didn’t want him to get my wallet, so I threw it in here. It turns out he was OK – he was just on the phone. Then I thought about it today and I wanted my kids pictures… so I figured I’d get them.”
WOW! What? Looking around for the hidden cameras because I could NOT believe this, we walked along with her until we came to a slope in the river and a chain link fence. She slowly made her way up concrete hill. She asked us to move this big trash can toward her. She started to climb over the chain link fence. My husband and I scrambled to help her and she stepped stepped on the trash can, then the ground on this side of the river. She was out.
Muddy, wet, messy she poured the water out of her boots while I held her hand. I could feel her shaking.
“That was intense. I did that. I did that.” she repeated.
“Yes. Wow. Your kids mean a lot to you to do all this.”
“Well, one of them I haven’t talked to in a while.” I guess she felt a little uncomfortable admitting that so immediately looked down and started to wring out her sopping socks.
“Oh. Well… you should call them and tell them about this adventure.”
She looked me right in the eye, “Yeah… huh… I will.”
She was actually so beautiful. She was not off, she was not odd… she was a really powerful mom that wanted a new beginning with her kids. I realized that she felt free enough to do something so outrageous and had gone to great lengths to keep what she had.
“I will.” She looked at me and smiled.
We walked her to her car and said our goodbyes. I held her hand a little longer than I normally would have because I… well.. admired her.
A few weeks later, I saw the same woman crossing the street near where she had been in the river. She looked unbelievable – really great – upscale clothes, sassy haircut, white ankle boots – she looked happy… and I hoped it was because she had made that call.
Alison Martin -- wife, mom, Emmy-award wining actress, writer, chocoholic. Bronx Italian, daughter of Pultizer Prize winning reporters, who also identifies as L.A. Irish. Shout outs: Dan, Emilia, Brady, pooches - LuLu & Ted, friends, Mother Earth, serendipity, peace, VIPHS, Boldfaced Secret, living life like your socks feel real good.
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