The Art of Walking Slowly

When a back injury slowed my pace, it also changed my relationship with my city

Cassie Archdeacon
Human Parts

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Photo: Eriko Tsukamoto/Getty Images

ItIt is my nature to treat every sidewalk like a racetrack. I’ve always been this way, even before living in a city, cursed with a compulsive need to get from corner to corner in world-record time. In my mind, this practice looks a bit like an action movie. I envision myself pole-vaulting over stretched-out dog leashes, gliding through narrow gaps between trash cans and strollers.

In reality, I end up darting in and out of the road, trying to pass the slow walkers who have trapped me behind them without attracting any eye rolls. Though I’m often humiliated at the next corner, when the slow walkers and I all get stuck waiting for the same crosswalk light, I am eventually gifted the satisfaction of passing them all over again.

In May, this changed: After flaunting my gymnastics skills one night to a six-year-old I babysit, I woke up unable to get out of bed, certain that the muscle beside my spine had been swapped out with a brick. I reached for my toes in an effort to sit and then stand, cranking my torso upward an inch at a time only to collapse onto the mattress, where any slight movement would cause a thousand little bees to sting my back. My bed became quicksand; I realized that the only way out was to physically…

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Cassie Archdeacon
Human Parts

Writer and MFA student living in Brooklyn with my boyfriend, our imaginary dog, and our family of houseplants. @cassiearch