While at the dog park yesterday, I struck up a conversation with an older woman. She never took her sunglasses off. Big, round and black. They engulfed her face. High above her eyebrows and down onto her cheeks. Two black holes, gulping up her wiggly skin. She was wearing a pink cardigan, but not a faint pink or a poppy pink, more like a coral mauve. Pearls hung onto her collarbone, as if they were little dollops of sour cream gently placed there. Her dog was an asshole, who was also wearing pink; only with bows on each ear. Oddly enough, they matched her cardigan. I’m certain they were dyed to match.
I was sitting on the picnic table, she was standing and to my left. My dog was taking his time pissing on every square inch of the chain link fence. Her dog was just being an asshole. Barking, nipping, digging into the Earth with her freshly manicured nails. The dog had bangs. Bangs that looked like they were cut by a third grader with dull sheers. Bangs that looked like someone had too many bottles of wine and decided in the heat of the moment, it was time for a change. Bangs. On a dog. Ridiculous.
With her right hand thumbing a pearl, she asked if I went to the parish up the road. “I do,” I responded. Her face tilted upwards, ever so slightly. If I hadn’t been watching her wiggly skin move, I would’ve missed that detail. “I’m not Catholic, my husband is. I just go along with him,” she said. Her face was still slightly tilted. Nodding over to the middle of the park was her husband. He wore a Kelly green tshirt with an Irish slogan on it. Their asshole dog wore tired of watching him throw the ball (apparently the dog was too good to fetch it) and her husband came over, sitting on the other side of the picnic table from me. In his youth, I guessed he probably had jet black hair. Now it was flour white. Eyebrows too. Chest hair, which I noticed screaming out of the neck of his shirt, also matched. He had a thick bottom lip, although his top was a bit thinner. His eyes were the color of the ocean when it his the shoreline: cloudy and pale, slightly green. The moment he said hello, I recognized that he was from the East coast His words sounded like they were being dragged down the street as he spoke them and I had to listen harder, as certain letters were omitted entirely.
In the five minutes of listening to him talk, I learned that his grandfather may have been from Warsaw, it’s a little sketchy with the documents. He’s from New Jersey (the wife interjects, “Clearly I’m not,” in her heavy drawl). He goes to the first morning mass. He’s Polish. He’s Irish. He lived out West. Their oldest son is well over six feet tall. They just met their first grandchild. “Do you like college football?” I nodded, still unsure of where all this conversation was going. “What team? You know, back in my day, college football wasn’t on tv. Nope. Maybe a few games, but not many. We only had four channels back then anyway…” he continued to talk, but I stared out past the big dog park area and further on, out to where the playground was. My son was over there with his friends. I thought I saw him on the swings. His red tshirt opening like a parachute with each glide. Higher and higher. I was certain he was going to jump off and land on the pavement. He did not.
Standing up, I excused myself momentarily. The old man was mid sentence about something pertaining to football. The asshole dog was nipping at my heels. My dog was eating grass. I leaned down and clicked his leash to the harness. “C’mon bubba, let’s get the hell out of here.”
As I walked back to the picnic table to grab my bag, I smiled. “Pleasure to meet you both, enjoy the rest of your sunshine.”
The wife, without removing her giant sunglasses said, “In the morning, after mass, we have coffee with the Catholics. Then, we drive to the other side of town and have breakfast with the Methodists.”
The sun pinched my cheeks and I closed my eyes.