Goldie and I are walking slowly around the block. I mean, very slowly. The poor old girl just limps and gimps along, stopping every few steps to smell, which I think means she is catching her breath, because she never had to stop and smell so much before. We approach a gang-member looking guy leaning against his fence. Tattoos on his neck, white t-shirt, black slacks, the usual.
He also has the shiny-eyed, blown-out-pupil look of someone who has a head full of chemicals not found in nature.
As we walk by, I say hi - I have seen him before and he is my neighbor, though one street over.
"I wish I was walking my dog," he chokes out suddenly.
"Yeah?" I say, a little puzzled.
"Max, my schnauzer, he got run over right here," he says, pointing at the street. "Now I can't stop crying. I gotta stop crying." He wipes his eyes on his t-shirt sleeve.
I stop and listen as he talks about Max, how much he loved that damned dog, how he was out walking him every morning at 6:30.
"That damn dog cost me fifteen hundred dollars," he said.
"And he stole your heart," I said.
He leans back from the fence and I see the pistol in his waistband. Whoa. But I figure a guy who is weeping over his dog probably won't do me any harm just then, so we talk about Goldie, how old she is, what kind of dog. All the usual dog questions.
"I can never have another dog," he said. "I could get another schnauzer, but there'd never be another Max."
"You never know," I say. "The day may come. When I got her, I wasn't looking for a dog. She was just there in front of me and I knew she was mine."
I asked his name and he told me, and I told him mine. Now we were real to each other. Beyond stereotypes, beyond gangs and problems and scary people. Just two people who love their dogs, meeting up on a Saturday afternoon.