I head to the dog park. Best to confront fears rather than let them linger. The gate separating the small dogs from the big dogs is busted open. This is an all-in situation. There is a slobbering boxer, a german shepherd, and this large breed mutt who looks up, hearing us enter. Like a coal walker, I puff my chest and glide to the closest bench, reminding myself to breathe as my vision becomes pixelated with panic. The dogs approach. Charleston’s body crumples as he submits. I restrain myself from getting involved, keeping a sharp eye without displaying worry.
A new ‘girl’, dressed in purple scrubs, with large sunglasses on, enters the park. She brings another large dog. She stands a few minutes in the middle of the park before scrunching up next to me on the bench, even though almost every other bench in the park is open.
She looks to be about twenty eight years old, which I realize is practically my age. One of her first questions is whether I live around her. I tell her which apartment complex I live in. She tells me she lives next to Jimmy James Square. We talk about our dogs. Hers is a mix breed. She got it from the pound. It makes me wonder how many other dogs in this arena were picked up from the pound.
So many sympathizers of lost dogs, what are they getting the rest of us into?
“What do you do for work?” she asks.
“I don’t have a job right now.” I reply.
“Living the free life, eh?” she says.
“Is there any other way to live?” I ask.
I wonder if she has seen my wedding ring.
“I work three days a week.” she says.
She’s a nurse.
“I have to have a dog walker because I work such irregular hours. Once the person working for me brought my dog here, even though I told her not to; and when I came home I found dirty paw prints all over my expensive comforter. Needless to say, she doesn’t have a job with me anymore.”
I tell her that sounds tragic, but I have to go.
“The dogs here are all too big for mine.”
We shake hands. I exit and sit on the grass outside the cage. I contemplate whether the truth is the best answer to give people. Musette told me last time we went to the bar that she hadn’t told people about my unemployment:
“Just tell them you still work at OfficeStore. It’s none of their business anyways. And besides, they wouldn’t understand…”
It was a good enough excuse for her coworkers, but the people around here frequent the OfficeStore I worked at on at least a weekly basis. I decide that a job I did while still living in Salt Lake, which involved driving gifts around to different corporations in a book fair fashion, is a good alias for the current situation because there is no fixed location for people to have missed me at, and a former truth is an easier lie to tell than a made-up one.
I rise from my meditative repose feeling redeemed of the sin injuries delivered by the nurse. Thinking that Charleston could use a bit more exercise I take him for a walk around the neighborhood. Passing Jimmy James Square I spot the nurse.
“Now that I know you I’m going to start seeing you everywhere!” she exclaims.
“I know right!?” I reply.