Friday, October 17, 2008


This story starts with the post on 10/16/2008.

After that first meeting in the park, I entered into the second phase of my relationship with Mr. Buster: the chase. My plan was to be in the park at the same time as Mr. Buster as often as I could. At first I tried going back to the same bench at the same time of day as when we first met, but with no results. Given that the time of day was 4pm, and Mr. Buster had a job, this wasn’t surprising.

The time I knew he was in the park, 6am, was out of the question, so I next tried the after-dinner hour, soon followed by the 5 o’clock time slot. This last was a rough time of day, when snarling alpha dogs competed in a sort of slam-dance, giving the park an atmosphere something between a mosh pit and a barroom brawl.

Kramer, who was a timid dog, was relieved when we stopped frequenting that scene. Since the Busters seemed to have no regular hour besides the early morning, I took to looking longingly at the park each time I was near a window, scanning the green for Buster’s black shape, or the tall, narrow one of his owner. I was prepared to grab the leash and run out the park with Kramer at any instant.

I knew it was a cliché, and I reveled in it. So much more fun to be the boy-crazy girl, waiting in the school hallway with a stack of books at the ready, than to be the chronically ill cousin, moping in a dark corner, coughing beneath a shawl and counting on her mother to arrange her marriage to Mr. Darcy, even though everyone knows he will never marry her!!

And then, by a stroke of luck, my mother tore her calf at the same time my father was out of town. I bravely volunteered to walk Kramer at the 6am time slot. This was tantamount to a Kamakaze mission. Although I was often awake at 6, my energy was close to zero at that time of day. I usually meditated for an hour right after breakfast, just to feel OK. Not to mention that I had to brush my teeth and take my shower sitting down.

Looking back now, it seems a testament to just how boring my life was that I saw the need for me to walk Kramer as such a golden opportunity. Once I had seen Mr. Buster again, and spoken with him, it didn’t matter to me that I spent the rest of the day lying on my back on the living room floor, a yoga mat beneath me and my legs propped up on the sofa, hoping this inversion and hours of deep breathing would work a miracle against the aching and fatigue that had taken over my body.

It also didn’t seem to matter that he wasn’t particularly witty, or insightful in his conversation. My goal was to talk to him, and I was reaching it. Besides, he was just a little shy and I was sure his conversation would blossom once he warmed up at little.

One thing was sure: he seemed eager to talk to me, and always crossed over to my side of the group of dog walkers, whether Kramer and Buster were playing together or not.

Within a few days I had a sort of back-handed invitation to see a movie with him, and a request for my email. I was thrilled. I told all my friends, who had been receiving regular updates on the Buster saga.

“Watch, he’ll probably pick me up in an S.U.V.” I laughed.

He did.

“Well, this is the first and last date,” I thought to myself while climbing into the monstrosity. Having lost all interest in staying in his good graces, I decided I might as well leverage some social pressure against him.

“What’s with this car? Don’t you care about global warming at all?” I chided him, trying to keep the tone playful. (My philosophy was that belligerence never won anyone over.)

He explained it was his brother’s car, on loan to him while his was in the shop. He normally drove a Subaru. We were back on.

Fortunately, there was no awkwardness about my being sick, since we ate at a restaurant right across the street from the movie theater. The only physical difficulty for me was standing in the lobby of the theater waiting to be let in to the movie, but this only lasted a few minutes, and since I spent the next hour and half sitting down, I had enough time to recover.

Still, it was not the most thrilling evening of my life. I didn’t really enjoy the movie, Eight Women, although the fact that Mr. Buster had picked an artistic French film was a further indication that beneath his reticent surface lay a sparkling intellect. Nevertheless, Mr. Buster’s conversational skills did not blossom has I had hoped for. He was shy, I was sure. I just had to draw him out and make him comfortable. I kept at it, and by the end of the night he was a little more talkative.

“This was fun,” he said. “Let’s do it again sometime.”

“OK,” I agreed, not really knowing why I was doing so. Was he as intriguing as he seemed? In the end, the outing had felt like hard work.

I told all my friends that when he called I would probably deflect him. We could remain casual, in-the-park-only friends. That was, whenever he called…. I was expecting him to call, any day, any time now….since he had said “let’s do this again,” and “this was fun,” I was sure he would call…. but he was taking his time about it, for sure, and then it seemed to be turning out that he wasn’t going to call….

And this annoyed me. Why wasn’t he calling? Wasn’t he interested in me? My mother’s calf had healed, so I had stopped taking Kramer to the park at 6am (with great relief, I might add, not to be abusing my already sick body). Had he just been counting on seeing me in the park and taken my absence as a sign of disinterest?

After about ten days I ran out of patience and sent him an email, saying we should get together with our dogs in the park sometime. He agreed.

Mr. Buster was turning out to be the sort of modern man who hedged his bets and took a casual, just-hanging-out-with-a-friend tactic to dating. It was an approach that historically I had little patience for: I had lived in Argentina and Mexico, where guys were either interested in you or they were not, and when they were they pursued you fervently. This always made things simpler.

But I was back in the States now, and things were different. Annoying, yes, but I didn’t give up so easily. The next few months things proceeded at a desultory pace. We went to a few movies, and met in the park with our dogs. I almost always made point of standing on these occasions, although it killed my legs and I would have preferred a bench. I was too embarrassed admit that I needed to sit.

Sometimes talking to him was like pulling teeth. At others, our conversation, although not scintillating, flowed easily. The dogs were a big topic of conversation, as was the looming war in Iraq, his work, and politics in general. Of course he knew I was ill, I had told him early on, in response to the inevitable question, “so, what do you do?” But I didn’t dwell on it, and he didn’t pry. Mostly, he didn’t seem to mind that I was sick, and this was a relief.

Fall became winter, and I invited him to my birthday party. As a present he brought me a headscarf from his recent trip to Pakistan. Over the past few months I had regaled all my friends with stories about running after him in the park, and although he wasn’t exactly my date for the night, I was excited for them to see how handsome he was. At one point in the evening, he put an affectionate arm around my shoulder.

To be continued….

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