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  • I happened to be walking down a sidewalk alongside the woman I have seen walking with gunned determination around the city for over a decade. Was she a homeless bag lady, or just a regular bag lady? What was her story? She was a character in the landscape of Columbia and one for which I had never heard a story. When I ask friends, everyone knows of who I am speaking but nothing about her. I had little other agenda so I stepped up my pace and asked her name.

    It was Thali, and she was walking towards the State House as well. We became companions with little agendas and continued along. She was going to see if she could catch the big parade that was apparently about to happen. She dearly loved the Knights of Columbus for being a Catholic organization and they were all to be in full regalia for the giant Pro-Life rally about to happen. Thali and I waited on a sidewalk by the pending parade route and small-talked. She loved the study of theology and was very weight-conscious; spaghetti suppers at church functions were a little too rich for her palette. She slumped beneath innumerable layers and carried a small brown tote she needed to get home to drop off; I wondered where she must live but didn't ask -- this wasn't meant to be a reporter/interviewee situation, just a strangers meeting by happenstance one.

    Thali said I had the build of a viking and must have had some viking descent in my blood, and was then either alarmed or nonplussed when I showed off the red hair beneath my hat. She, like me, has to watch everything that goes into her body. What I wasn't expecting upon meeting this woman in person was that we would spend nearly an hour together by the state house steps, or that she had dietary issues that were much like my own.The once or twice I tried to politely continue on my own way, Thali would argue that the parade was just about to start and didn't I want to see it? And though I have no political interest in attending a pro-life rally on the South Carolina state house steps, I had every delighted, grateful interest in solving a little piece of urban mystery.
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