He texts us early in the morning with a list of groceries. We offered knowing his existence is now even more precarious with no income. Avoiding illness has been a decade-long obsession following an HIV+ diagnosis. He makes sure to use Signal, an apparently secure communication app, as a way of texting following a two year episode of personal terrorism when his phone and computer were invaded and he was stalked. He switched phones several times, switched jobs, and is vigilently cautious about his use of technology, his privacy. Caution lives with him and just demanded more space. We are getting him blackberries, soap, and other essentials and leaving them on his doorstep as small comfort.
She was one of the first neighbours to greet us. She lives next to us in the cooperative housing units with her partner, Bill, an elderly Black man who reminds me of a walking comma, bent elbows jutting and swinging backwards, his colourful knitted Marley hat bobbing in front with each lumbering step. He is always smiling, well, nearly always until they stopped us outside while unloading groceries one day. Her diagnosis was colon cancer and we listened while she shared and spilling some of her life on the driveway in front of our house: a healthy lifestyle, exercise, she’s a nurse, why did this happen, can’t believe it. Bill looked at the ground for most of these moments shifting his body back and forth while her eyes glistened and we faced her listening, projecting comfort. She is okay now, but asked for bananas so we will leave them on her doorstep today.
He trots over to me wagging and dipping his head before he brushes his body against my leg. I think he feels the surface tension, the accumulation that builds pools which collect and fill throughout the day, then recede and disperse somewhere between my head and heart. Experts have talked about canine intution and its on display in my house of late. It’s unusual that he seems to be very needy, wanting constant contact, paws batting at me as I type, or write, or read calling me back to his deep brown eyes. He is not getting his usual rest because he is tending to his pack.
We walked him this morning. Leaving the house later than our usual morning walks, the spaces were surprisingly still vacant waiting for motion and contact. He darted towards two Canada Geese in the field along the parkway, but their broad lifting wings, protruding necks, and honking sounds warned against lessening the space between, and he stuck close to my feet, tripping me as he often does, both of us looking away, elsewhere. Further along the path, I noticed a sign on a school: Private Property and thought about my concern for shrinking public space. In my memory, school grounds were always open, free, and accessible to the community as part of the public trust and we had this collective responsibility to pick up after our pets, ourselves. In my imagination, I see this open space inviting back the shrills of children playing, the echoes of bells, and here the sounds still.
Once home, I fill the tub with warm water, bath salts, and sit back to listen to a podcast: On Being episode 819: Ross Gay – Tending Joy and Practicing Delight . This is small comfort in the water, in the words and voice of one who seeks the joy in public spaces, whose imagination can see the beauty in the inequity and work without missing the delight blossoming with each moment.