Thursday, October 16, 2008


While I was living with my parents, my mom spent a considerable amount of time in the park across the street from our house, walking our young dog, Kramer. At certain times of the day the number of dogs in the park would go from a smattering to a handful and then to a scene, with the owners congregating at one end of the park or another while the dogs ran in circles around them.

Kramer’s scene was the early morning one, and there my mother got to know many of the dog owners, but rarely by their names. Instead, she knew the names of the dogs, and when she talked about the owners she would call them “Mr. Spot,” or “Ms. Pigwidgeon,” and so on.

Nearly every morning my mother would recount for me what had happened in the park, and since it usually involved Kramer doing some utterly endearing doglike thing, I listened happily. But I seldom cared much about the human gossip that went along with the dog stories.

One day when we’d had Kramer for about a year, my mother came home from the park and told me, with a thrill in her voice, that there was a new dog owner—Mr. Buster. He was young and good looking, and single.

“Mom, I’m not interested,” I told her.

“But he’s so neat!” she said. “He’s from Sri-Lanka and he works at USAID….”

I still wasn’t interested. It was only a few months after my break up with Alejandro, and mentioning another man felt like rubbing salt into my raw wounds.

But even more than that, it seemed beyond consideration that anyone would want to date me while I was as sick as I was. I had stopped working several years before, and at twenty-nine I was living with my parents and dependent on them for more than just financial support. I needed them to cook and grocery shop for me, and even drive me places. My body was a dead weight almost every moment of the day, and the few glimmers when I felt—well, not close to energetic, but at least a little less sick—were so fleeting that I had learned not plan or hope for them anymore.

I didn’t even have the dignity of being able to tell people what was wrong with me, since my diagnosis had remained unclear. How was I supposed to meet someone under those circumstances?

No matter. If I wasn’t interested in Mr. Buster, my mother certainly was interested in him on my behalf. Every several days she came back from the park with some new bit of information about him: he had just bought a new house a few blocks from the far side of the park; he had got Buster from the pound; Buster was on a diet; Mr. Buster had four brothers, whom the Tamil Tigers had tried to recruit while they were living in Sri Lanka.

This last bit my mother learned from Mrs. Buster, Mr. Buster’s talkative mother who often walked the mile and a half from Ledroit Park to our neighborhood to take Buster out during the day. Mrs. Buster was slender and handsome and used an umbrella to keep cool in the summer heat. She took classes at the Smithsonian Institute and had been a doctor in Sri Lanka.

My mom was even more enthusiastic about Mrs. Buster than she was about her son, and as I write this now it I suppose she imagined what good friends the two of them would become once they were no longer mere Lincoln Park acquaintances, once their children were a couple.

At the time I was too engrossed in my own busted-heart to consider this. I didn’t want another man, and another man certainly didn’t want me.

Or so I thought, until one day in October, when I took Kramer to the park in the afternoon. My routine was to make it to the bench closest to our front door, then sit down, take Kramer off the leash and let her run around.

I had just done this when a large German Shepard mix ran up, followed by a tall, strikingly handsome man who knew Kramer by her name and called his own dog Buster.

He told me he had gotten Buster from the pound, that he worked at USAID and had just bought a house a few blocks away, and that Buster was on a diet. I pretended I was hearing all these things for the first time, but my interest was not feigned.

To start, his accent was intriguing. It was close to an Indian accent, without the sing-song lilt, but with almost plummy British overtones . His wire rimmed glasses added an intellectual air to his appearance, and did I mention that he was extremely good looking?

to be continued…

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