Dog Mornings by Meg Pokrass
At the coffee shop, I pick the chair outside near the dogs. I like dogs, especially in the morning, because they notice me, aren't answering cell phones. I'm never awkward around them (they don't have 600 friends or cool shoes), and even though my landlord won't allow me to own one, I visit with them often.
I was squatting and petting the dogs, sucking on my coffee, when I saw the most agreeable woman in San Francisco. She was sitting in front at an outside table, holding a shaggy mop dog on her lap. Sipping a steaming drink.
She wore a colorful beaded necklace and earrings. I was dressed like a slob, my sweatshirt barely covering my belly. I felt it showed, as did my bad luck. I still felt raw from having opened a fortune cookie last week on my birthday that said. "if you're not living out your dreams now, forget them." My girlfriend, Sylvie, had laughed.
Sylvie is obsessed with fighting cancer she doesn't have. She says her "tangies" keep hope alive, consumes ten organic tangerines a day, skin, seeds, and flesh (an expensive regimen), because she know she's going to get cancer -- and she wants to stop it before it stops her. "You're lucky you met me," she says often, kissing my shoulders.
The sun is hiding today, and the woman with the mop dog is not here. Still, my jeans warm the cold white plastic chair thinking about how our bodies have now shared the same cheap furniture -- remembering the way her spine curved over her steaming coffee drink.
A young boy is reading animal facts to his grandmother from a big book, watching me out of the corner of his little eye to see if I'm listening to him, hoping I'll notice what a smart child he is. "An African Elephant stays pregnant for 22 months," he reads.
I know she probably won't show, and I'll never see her again, but the dogs are always here. They like me even more now because I bring them little treats. It feels fine being here, letting them sniff my shoes and knees because they know me, and because we are all in the same boat. Waiting for the only thing that matters.