Stranger in the Park

He was walking a chocolate lab in the same park as her. Wearing shorts despite the drizzle. The lab was pulling him toward the edge of a small wood.

She was walking her white mutt along the path, away from him in the opposite direction, toward the pebble beach.

The two dogs interrupted their sniffing every once in a while to check each other out from afar.

Dogs are not afraid to get to know one another, she thought to herself. They are curious and perfectly comfortable letting the other dog know they are interested in meeting them.

She wondered why some people weren’t like that.

She wasn’t like that.

While walking along the path, she noticed the man with the chocolate lab looking at her several times. At least she thought he did.

Should she have made eye contact and smiled at him? He seemed quite far away the first few times she noticed him watching her. Later, when he was near the path, he wasn’t far anymore. She saw his face when she glanced at him from behind her hoodie covering part of her head.

Attractive, she thought to herself before shaking her head as if to shake the thought of him out.

Her dog suddenly pulled her backwards, out of her reveries. He was pawing at his jaw. She bent down to check what was going on and saw a burr on his whiskers. As she freed him from his pest, the chocolate lab came over and started sniffing her dog, as dogs do.

She looked up and the man was standing there, smiling down at her.

“They’re getting muddy and wet,” he said.

“I know, and mine keeps stepping into burrs,” she responded as she got back up again.

He was cute. Dark hair and a nice smile. Probably in his 40s somewhere. And bare legs. Muscular, like someone who runs, or cycles.

She wondered why he was walking his dog alone in the middle of the day. In the rain. And where he was coming from. She never saw him before.

His dog came over to sniff her legs, covered in long, athletic tights despite the summery warmth. She bent down to pet him.

“Chocolate lab?” she asked the cute man.

“Yes, he is,” he responded.

She looked at him. He didn’t say anything else, but kept staring at her.

The rain started coming down harder.

“See you later”, she said as she pulled her dog along to finish their walk.

As she walked up the street, she kicked herself for not waiting for him to say something else to her. What was the rush, she asked herself. Maybe she could have had a pleasant conversation with the nice looking stranger, despite the rain coming down consistently.

But she didn’t. She doesn’t know how to be social with strangers.

As she walked back toward home, she kept looking up to see if she saw him again. Maybe he did live in the neighborhood. Or maybe he drove down from someplace else and got into his car to take his dog home.

She kicked herself again for not noticing whether he walked to the parking lot, or turned up another street on foot.

Tomorrow, we’ll head back to the same park, she told herself. Maybe he’ll be there again.

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