I almost always see T— at the park in the morning. She’s got two big dogs, one black and one brown. She used to bring them together but now she brings them separately. She’s not a chatty park person, the type where you know all about their surgeries and love affairs but not their last name. But she’s not unfriendly either, like the guy who drives in, stands near the tennis courts just long enough for his poodle to do what needs to be done, and then gets it back in the car and drives away. He doesn’t even return your waves.
No, T— always has a smile and a friendly response to your inane comment about the weather, but she never initiates. She always seems nervous that her dog is going to do something terrible, but they never do. I often feel I’m roping her into conversation but for some reason I can’t help myself. I want to know her secrets.
Yesterday she was walking with A—, my favorite, the brown one. I called to him and he came running up to me. He’s got a very wise face, like he spends a lot of time alone thinking. T— seemed afraid he was going to take Django’s ball, she was like, “Oh, the ball…” but he didn’t. Then she seemed worried Django would try to take A—’s sticks, “Oh, he’s guarding his sticks,” but she didn’t. It made me think something must have happened when she had the two dogs together at the park. I knew in the winter she’d said she started bringing them separately because they pulled too hard on the icy sidewalks. But the ice is gone, even if the cold isn’t. Maybe there’s more to it?
But I can’t ask her directly. There’s a layer of protection in her reserve. She always has a pleasant answer, but it’s as if she’s slowly backing out of the room. So I use my subtle powers of investigation.
“Do you always bring both of them to the park, one and then the other?”
“Oh yes, yes,” she smiles.
“Oh, I have to. They have so much energy.”
“Wow, that must take a lot of time.”
“No, only about an hour and fifteen minutes total.” I use an old interviewer’s trick and don’t answer. The uncomfortable silence will prompt her to keep talking. “Oh, he’s worried about his sticks.”
“Django doesn’t like sticks, don’t worry. Do you always bring them in the same order?”
“Yes, I have to bring M— first or he gets upset.”
“What about A—, he just waits?”
“Yes, he just lies down and waits.”
“Yes,” she smiles and sidles away, leaving me with nothing but awe for someone who walks here every single morning, twice. Note to self: work on powers of investigation and purchase walking shoes.