“Let’s walk,” I urge us up out of the mental replay of another failed hunt. “Got any new gossip?”
“I saw Aurora at the park yesterday.”
“Right, Aurora. The chick from Alaska. Is she still playing Lacrosse at the university?”
“Yeah, she said she has a new boyfriend who doesn’t really get along with her other roommates.”
“Uh oh. Not another drunken 911 call to Royal Oak’s finest.”
Aurora was a short, not-beautiful, not-fat, but certainly fully-packed college Lacrosse player from Alaska who was on her 3rd boyfriend of the season. I didn’t know anything about Lacrosse, but Aurora walked with the no-bullshit stride of an Inuit seal-hunter. And from the twinkle in her shiny dark eyes, I’m guessing she had been high-sticked a few times.
“Is it high-STICKED or high-STUCK?”
Carlee looks at me sideways . “What are you talking about??”
“Can’t you read my mind?”
“Anyway, Aurora managed to calm the boyfriend down with promises of lingerie and beer.”
“I can’t imagine Aurora in a Victoria’s Secret anything. Do they sell sweat pants?”
“I was thinking Doc Martens and a whip.”
“Maybe a harpoon.”
We had just begun our third loop through the woods when we saw Doris. Well, we heard Doris.
“Can you believe this HEAT?!” Doris doesn’t so much speak as she does bray.
“It’s GLOBAL WARMING, that’s what it is. And those DAMN REPUBLICANS!” Hee haw!
Doris’s donkey voice could impale you from halfway across the park. Doris might walk at the shuffling pace of a 70-year-old embittered Al Gore supporter, but she had honed her attack-opinions into soul-piercing arrows designed to pin you down while she loudly evangelized for the democrats in all capital letters. It was like walking through a fight scene in Braveheart.
“How could ANYBODY vote for GIULIANI, that HYPOCRITE?!!”
Dammit, Carlee, I’m hit! Save yourself!
The bark park is self-service, dooty-free. Owners are supposed to clean up their own dog’s fecal donations and dispose of them in the little white plastic bags provided in convenient dispensers. As Doris spit her political venom at every passing mongoose, her Weimeraner (AMBER!) expelled a runny dump right behind her. Doris was oblivious. Doris only watches her dogs if there aren’t any politics to shout at somebody. AMBER! (Doris always SHOUTED the dog’s name, always in all caps, AMBER!, and always followed by an exclamation point.)
AMBER! looked up from her repulsive squat and grinned at us.
Hey, Doris. Your politics are squirting out the backside of your dog. You want a bag? To put over your head?
“Hi Doris.” I went still as I formulated an exit strategy.
“I watched the Republican debates last night.”
Doris does not converse. That would imply at least two people talking. Instead she projectile-vomits monologues of invective toward any available ear. I try to evade Doris like a loud commercial. Come to Crazy Eddie’s! Mute, goddammit, mute! Doris doesn’t visit the park for her dogs; she comes to throw up on an audience.
Her miserable Weimeraner (AMBER!) was chewing on a shit nugget it had found near the scene of this crime. Doris finally sees her. It. Sees the brown froth.
“AMBER!! What are you DOING??!! I told my husband it would be AMAZING that anyone with a CONSCIENCE could vote for Ron Paul.”
Oh my god, that IS amazing. Doris has a husband? I’m in here dragging my net for any semi-conscious goat with two legs, and Doris has caught herself a lifer? I briefly wonder if her husband is deaf.
“Come on, Carlee,” I say, nudging the snickering beret towards the gate. “I want to show you that magazine article I was reading: ‘Laryngitis and How to Give it to Others.'”
We holler for our girls. Carlee walks to the woods in her cute boots (when did she get cute boots??) and whistles her distinctive “Yoo-hoo!” into the trees. She pulls her vibrating phone out of her bag and glances again at the text display. Her pit bulls finally appear and Carlee turns back toward me, subtly closing her phone again with a smile.
“You’re killing me.” This time I manage the glare.
“You’ll find someone.” She pats me on the shoulder as we head toward the exit. Pats me.
“Yeah, but in the meantime…” I gesture toward Doris and AMBER! and the shit-shake on the ground she’s still ignoring. “… I’m going home to type out another chapter about this place.”
I am almost grateful for Doris’s wall of sound because at least it’s not silence. Listening to Doris is like sticking your finger down someone else’s throat.
“Hey, I forgot to tell you, Erin. My mom has a date this weekend.”
Carlee has saved this for last.
“Your mom? Your mom is eating duet prime rib and I’m swimming solo across Lonely Hearts Mac and Cheese?!?”
We get to the gate and I leash Bowie. I rest my hand on the wooden post to unlatch the fence. My hand squishes on something slimy. I pull it up to find a smashed slug. No, wait, it’s two smashed slugs. They were mating.
“My mom found her date on-line. Maybe you could try it,” Carlee says. I wipe my hand on my jeans.
The whole world has a date. Carlee, Carlee’s mom, Aurora the Plug-shaped Athlete, Silver-Hair the Sausage Eater. Doris the Psycho Democrat has a ferchrissake husband. My spayed dog gets more play than me. These two slugs on a fence post in the middle of a canine toilet have found each other and I’m going home to tell my computer about my day.
“Maybe I’ll try it.”
“How do you do that?” I stare at Carlee’s head.
“You’re wearing a beret. How do you pull that off?”
“I don’t. I just wait until it falls off at the end.”
“Oh, just cut out my heart. And these other parts I’m not using.”
“You can do this, Erin. I believe in you.”
“If I didn’t love you so much, I’d hate you.”
“I know. Me, too.”
I wipe my hands again.
Why is it so hard to find a date?
I think I’m a regular person. Sure, I eat macaroni and cheese for breakfast, apply lip balm like a meth head in the Sahara, and only drink water if it’s so cold it hurts, but these are just quirks, right? Not deal-breakers? (“Meth Head in the Sahara” would make a great band name.) So why is it so hard?
I’m not actually lonely. I’m too busy and involved to be lonely. I am the mother of a teenager, a teenager who is in and on a dozen of everything, which means I’m in and on a dozen Committees to Raise Money for Everything. I have a real family, two church families, and one bark park family, although certain members of the bark park family make me want to shoot a nail through my head.
I lean over to Carlee for one last moment of inspiration. “Was Mary Elizabeth here yesterday?”
“Capri pants and a halter top?”
“Don’t forget her pink belly.”
“Like Jabba the Mole Rat. Jesus, Carlee. She’s in her 50s. Why do we have to look at her silly putty?”
“She has a lot. She likes to share.”
“Inspected by number 12.”
“Was there lipstick on her teeth?”
“And her hair.”
“She’s married, isn’t she.”
The park goes still. Carlee looks straight ahead.
“Yes. Mary Elizabeth is married.”
“Would you please smack me with your ball-whipper? As hard as you can until my stuffing flies out?”
“It’s probably not stuffing so much as it is bile.”
“I love you too, Carlee.”
So I do have people I can hang with; there are plenty of people who can fill my time. I have people to talk to, to text, to email, to eat potluck with, to write stories about. The problem is that none of them qualify as a dinner companion with benefits. Huggable prey. Meat.
I look all right for a middle-aged huntress. Maybe I don’t look like Madonna, but on the other hand… I don’t look like Madonna. I’m tall and slender and hunch-free. My tits are too small and my ass is too big, but I exercise regularly which keeps my saddle-bags roped in. My smile is white and my hair is curly, though chronically out of control. My eyes are big and bright and I have two of them. Why is it so hard to find a date?
It used to be so easy. Good grief. I remember sitting in our track stadium as a high school freshman watching the boys run the mile relay. When the anchor runner (a pretty, pretty green-eyed senior) pulled ahead to win for the home team, I thought, “Him.” I pointed like Babe Ruth. “I want that one.” The runner was smooth-skinned and shaggy-haired and delicious-looking and a whole lot of other hyphenated words. I waited for him after whatever mysterious things boys did in the locker room, and later we shared a Coke and some spit and the inside of my prom dress. Home run.
In college, it was the same thing. Easy, easy. Just point and shoot. The ATO fraternity house held a New Year’s Eve dance in the middle of June (so clever, those engineers!). The frat was hoping to initiate a particularly stunning young man from one of my Calculus classes, a former all-state water polo player with a sculpted swimmer’s torso and sparkly grey eyes. I, too, was thinking about initiating him. In fact I was making up hazing rituals just watching him walk. When the midnight countdown was drunkenly shouted, mostly in order, by some blasted-to-shit future car designers, I walked up to the swimmer, tapped him on the shoulder, and kissed the next two years out of him.
It’s not the same now. If I tried that today, I’d get arrested. And I’d need shots.
I toss a bag of dog shit in the garbage bin.
I zip up my ugly sweatshirt and go home to hunt. On line.
eDissonance, “Chapter 1b – Hunting at the Park” by Erin Waugh