A Promise Kept
It rained earlier this morning, while I turned over in bed for half an hour after my alarm went off. I love sleeping in or reading in bed while it rains, looking out the window while feeling snug and secure and warm. It's one of my fondest memories from junior year in college, when I had a tiny room but a huge window near the head of my futon. My electric teakettle, espresso machine, mini-fridge, and coffee press ensured that I'd always have a warm cup of coffee, tea, cup, cappucino, or chicken soup to hold in my chilly fingers while I lounged in bed.
Is it still raining? I asked, when finally urged out of bed by my bladder. Warm drops of shower-water run down his legs, he cocks his head sideways to tell me no, it stopped earlier, it's nice out now. The dog joins us in the bathroom, licks first one wet calf then another, then comes to lie at my feet in front of the toilet. I pull on the still damp shorts and shirt I wore home from the pool last night, pat my leg, urging the dog downstairs with me.
The trail is quiet, the early morning storms discouraging the usual runners and bikers. My feet pad silently, sucking only slightly as the wet bottoms rise and fall. My dog's nails click as she trots beside me. A green-headed duck stands ahead of us on the blacktop path, then waddles to the side as we approach. We turn a corner to cross the foot-bridge, a rabbit hops to the edge, hidden now in the tall grass of the wetlands. Two chipmunks scurry and play, another rabbit dashes off in the distance. Innumerable, unknown birds soar, peck, flap, and coast. A long-billed bird with a red head climbs tree branches, a yellow and black spot zips above me, black-beaded eyes and cocked heads all observe me and flit, fly, or hop out of sight. Hidden birds caw and cry across the marsh. I hear insects buzzing, singing, chirping, calling. How could I be lonely when there is so much life?
I speak their names aloud into the grey-tinged air. Faces appear as I beckon them, thanking each person who has helped me. Friends who have written emails; friends who have answered my phone calls; friends who have offered a hand, a hug, a pat on the back; friends who are following me; friends behind me in the unemployment line and writing resumes; friends who offer diversion and amusement; friends who want to help, to play, to take me to lunch, to take me out of town; friends who met me once, friends I haven't seen in fifteen years, friends of friends who hear my call; friends who are far away, in town, across the country, on another coast; friends who I forget unless I call to them, thank them, honor them, and open myself to them.
The view into my head is a neglected window. Rub it with your hand, cup it, take a look. It's a dark shed full of unused tools with web-coated shelves. A warm breeding ground for vermin, the small, dark, darting things, those errant thoughts that fall like dried-up moths, once beautiful wings dried and cracked. Those slimier, snakier, earthier things that pulse in the wet mud that ooze uncertainty and doubt. The damp of tears giving way to mold, to rot, to fungus and pungent smells. Left alone, I will wander here, forgetting how tempting it is to stare inside, to peer into the dark, forgetting how hard it is to turn my eyes away, to look outward, upward, to the sky.
A Social Event
I love your dog, the boy says as he passes by. I stop, urge the group of five to come say hello to her. She doesn't bite? One boy, less sure, questions me. They carry fishing rods, they cluster around, their wide mouths open, laughing, talking.
On your left, on your left. Bells ring, bikes skim past us. Beautiful dog, a grey-haired biker calls back. Men in recumbent bikes smile, joggers nod as they breath hard. The sun has come out a little and pulled people to the path through the woods. They come in groups, they come alone. They bike, they walk, they run, they pass each other by. They have on headphones, helmets, damp tee shirts, sandals, tight black shorts, glasses, short white socks. Nice sheltie, a brown-bearded man yells out. Thank you! I shout.
I love your dog. She helps me say hello, she helps me notice you. She's the life of the party, the catalyst of greetings, a touchstone of shared experience. Thank you, thank you.