We met a woman with a big, black dog, a Black Russian Terrier, bigger than Sam. She wanted to talk, not just because our dogs were both big — that happens a lot — but because she used to have two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, the even larger though short-haired Swiss dogs that resemble Bernese. She wanted to talk about those dogs, how it broke her heart when they were gone. They don't live any longer than Bernese, I guess. She marveled at Sam's age, his apparent good health, now mostly thanks to an expensive series of Adequan injections he's been getting for arthritis in his elbows and a wrist since early June. She wanted to drink in his tri-colored coat and the gentle expression in his big, brown eyes, so sweet they brought tears to hers.
She loves her new dog, but it's not the same. She couldn't bear to have the same dogs again, she said, because it "would have killed" her to lose them.
I told her about Molly, about the the heart-quaking experience of having her put to sleep because she was in so much pain. Then I told her Sam and I needed to walk down the beach, because my heart felt like the sky, close to bursting with things lost.
I hate to cry. People who know me well know this. Maybe it's because there were times in my 30s that I thought I would never stop crying. Maybe it's because I hate the feeling of losing control. Maybe it's because my mother taught me to keep things inside. Maybe it's just the type of person I am. I don't want to cry at the beach on a Tuesday evening, talking to a stranger, even about dogs. I want to walk down the beach and clear my head.
Sam trotted along behind me, faithfully. Molly would never have done this. You could never be out with Molly off the leash and not be keeping a sharp eye on her. If she could have figured a way to flag down a ship or climb aboard someone's sailboat for a trip around Casco Bay, I'm sure she would have, and the people she met would have found her an absolutely charming companion.
But Sam trots along behind, keeps an eye on me, to be sure I don't founder.
I have the luxury of a place to go with my private woes. I can close the blinds. I can tuck up on my big bed, and I can even pull the curtains around it if I like. Because it's on the north side of the house, it's easy to make it dark, to hide and feel safe from the view of the world, from anyone who might judge me or rank my reasons for being weepy as less than valid.
Even still, I hate to cry.
She caught my eye as we drove home from the beach, headed down the hill on Congress Street toward town. We had passed the light by the cemetery, and I saw a woman sitting on the bottom step outside the door to a shop, I think, crying. Her face was red, her expression one of misery. I only had a moment to look, as my car moved slowly down the block. She had long, brown hair, may have been in her late twenties or early thirties. Something was wrong with the picture, so I glanced at the road then back to her. Her denim shorts were in the wrong place, I thought, she had them pulled down closer to her knees, and before I could think another thought about why she might be uncovering herself (drugs? alcohol? mental illness? all three?), I saw the stream of urine.
She had no privacy, no privy, beyond those public steps.
And that makes me want to cry, too.
(Picture found at Reality Times, taken on East End Beach in July, 2006.)