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Happy Spirits

Project III:

I didn’t recognize him. He was wearing a different coat. Our walk was deliberate. He led me to her. She reminded me of my spirit. #makeyourmark

Project II:

All the concern for me to follow him and now he’s obviously in no hurry. He stops to consider everything at his level. Another fire hydrant seems to have a delectable scent.

I’m not sure I’ve ever looked up to notice the clotheslines going from the back of that building at the fourth floor to the building across the alleyway. Drying are towels, a couple pair of jeans with sequins on the back pockets, and some socks each pinned individually to the line. Clotheslines make me think happily of rural Pennsylvania, Europe, and hard-working people.

There’s a 1974 Cadillac Coupe Deville moored in the equivalent of two spaces on the street. I picture a slightly average height couple in their early 70s sliding into the old ride – he with large glasses and she with a scarf on her head - going on their Sunday drive as they have for 30 years.

I used to climb a tree like that every day. The branches and knotholes strategically positioned as if designed to facilitate the ascent of an 11-year-old boy.

We turn the corner. I’ve not been down the street before. I’m fascinated by how each brownstone has a sculpture at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the front door. Some are very simple – a small globe, a point – others are more complex, lions heads and a bird or two. I would like to ask each one who they are and what they mean. How did you get there? What have you seen?

I’m in my own neighborhood not a few blocks from home. I’m lucky to have a guide as I am lost. He stops and sits. I sit. I remember that we wait together.

Project I:

The sound of a faint bark makes me think about Cooper. It hurts even after three months. The loss of a loved one has the same effect on your body as physical pain. That’s why it’s called heartache.

Coop was the kind of dog that had a love for his life. Not a goofydog-rocks-in-the-head type happiness but an actual spirit enjoying its time on this earth. Down somewhere I was envious of that.  

I hear the bark again, closer. There are many dogs in my neighborhood so it’s nothing unusual. As I turn the corner I’m met by a shaggy terrier. He hasn’t been brushed in two years. He looks at me and barks. He has no collar or apparent owner. I try to pet him. He takes two steps away and barks. “Fine”, I say and continue on my way. He walks in front of me. At the next corner he takes two steps left and barks. I step right. He barks again. I take another step and he starts barking as if I stepped on his tail. I turn back expecting him at my heels ready to nip at my pants but he’s still at the corner.

“What is it boy?”, “Yes Lassie?” I said with my outside voice mildly amused at myself. The dog was not amused. Alright, with nothing to do this evening I’ll play his game. I walk towards him. He walks away looking back periodically to make sure I’m still there. We go three blocks, left, another block, then right before stopping in front of a brownstone.

He sits. The house is not on fire. No one is visibly bleeding. There is no damsel in distress.

I sit on the steps and look at this wirebrush of a dog. Now what? He doesn’t answer. He just twists around and bites the base of his tail as if it’s possessed.

An African-American woman in her mid-60s lugging a couple bags of groceries is coming towards me. She walks up the steps and says hi. She sits a bag down at the top of the stairs but a little too close to the edge. While fumbling with her keys a plastic carton of milk escapes and goes tumbling down. It bursts open in a splash of whitewash. She isn’t bothered by it.

I retrieve the carton and walk it up to her. “Sorry about your milk”.

“It’s no problem. Sometimes there’s crying to be done but this is not one of those times”, she says with a mild chuckle in a voice that twinkles like summer starlight.

“Do you know who owns that scruffy dog?”, and turn to point towards him. We both peer down the stairs to nothing but a fading patch of white.

“Oh, I think you mean Charlie. At least that’s what I call him. Yes, I see him sometimes. He has brought me some of the happiest spirits I have ever met.”

“Would you like some tea?”, She asked. “Sorry, no milk.”

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