We met serendipitously, like in a movie. I was sitting on the steps in front of my apartment building crying because I had locked myself out again, I had lost my job, I was basically friendless, losing them in the usual ways–big moves, tragedy, and drama–my phone was dead, and life was starting to feel unfair. Rain pelted against the red, vinyl awning, irregular taps I listened to, waiting for a rhythm to emerge. Cars sped by, delivery drivers double parked their trucks to unload coffee beans to the shop next door, and people with umbrellas took an afternoon stroll. I saw him before he saw me, at the end of the street, meandering from one side of the sidewalk to the other, stopping to inspect fancy railings and posts, make sure garbage can lids were secure, greet passersby, and smell the roses.
The closer he got, the quicker his pace became. He exuded confidence, his hair damp, small spikes sticking up as though it had been styled that way, his muscles toned, a sign he worked out everyday. Then his big brown eyes met mine, and I thought I might faint. He stopped, said hello, and sat there on the steps with me. I looked around, thinking he might be with someone, that this someone would show up and claim him. But that’s not what happened, not exactly.
He stayed with me until my neighbor Chauncey arrived, and then we said our goodbyes. The next morning, we met up again. This time I was on my way to the market, and he insisted on tagging along, wanting to hear more about me, my career, my interests, my goals. I bought all non-perishables, so that we could take a stroll through the park. He talked on an on about the squirrels and the ducks–he seemed to know a lot about them–showed me his favorite spots, and retrieved tennis balls when they made their way over the fence.
Against my better judgment, I invited him to stay over, and he obliged. At home I made us a meal, telling him all about my culinary adventures. He seemed pleased with his chicken and rice entre, while I had grilled salmon and green beans. After lunch, he fell asleep, snoring like an old man. I went back to my job search, hoping the tapping of the keys didn’t wake him. When he stirred, I took pictures of us together, some of just him, posted them online, printed copies to share with neighbors. And just like that, what I thought was for one night, at most, turned into a week, and then another week, not that I minded. I was his and he was mine. We took long walks every day, ate gourmet meals, set daily goals–his very short term, completed by noon–cuddled on the couch, and shared my bed at night.
It’s no wonder that a phone call from a Mr. Flanagan felt like a disruption. There was someone else after all, and he was on his way to collect what belonged to him.
“Mr. Flanagan,” I said when I opened the door.
“Call me Hunter,” he said. “Come, Ace,” he called, and Ace came.
I gathered his things, keeping my back turned so they didn’t see my sadness.
“Hey, thanks for looking after him for me,” Hunter said. “My brother was supposed to be watching him while I was out of town and clearly did a horrible job,” he laughed.
“It was no problem. We had fun…didn’t we Boy,” I bent to say goodbye to Ace.
“I would like to give you something…”
“That’s not necessary,” I said, as he pulled out his wallet. “It was my pleasure.”
“Why don’t you meet us at the park sometime,” he pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to me. “We can talk about Half Dome,” he said.
“Half Dome, when you climbed it?” he pointed at the framed picture above my desk.
“Yeah…that was a long time ago,” I dismissed.
“I still want to hear about it,” he smiled and turned to leave, Ace at his side.