We see each other every night, and pretend not to. She walks her dog, I feed my addiction--we're both very nurturing, apparently. We never speak, we never look at each other.
She must know me in her mind just as I know her in mine. Perhaps she has formed a story about me, as I have formed a story about her.
If so, I wonder if her story is as erroneous as mine is, if she is even close to knowing what my situation is, who I am.
Her dog is a big one, which is probably why she is okay with walking him at midnight. Or perhaps it doesn't matter.
Perhaps she walks at midnight for the same reason I never check the locks before I pass out at the end of the night.
Maybe she just doesn't care.
Does she dare the night to attack her, does she taunt the world with its dark possibilities?
A miscarriage, the third in as many years, and the puppy her husband got her after the first time has grown into a rather intimidating animal.
Big, but still a child, its goofy grin apparent under the streetlights as they walk. Mark, that's the dog's name, and she'll never admit to anyone why she gave him that name.
The day she dropped to her knees and hugged the tiny animal, it marked the day she gave up. She told herself she'd try, she told the therapists, and she told her husband.
She wanted to be telling the truth, but she knew.
After the third miscarriage, she left her husband. He kept insisting they could try again, and she didn't feel like explaining that she was finished trying.
He left with with tears and relief, and she watched him go with dry eyes and a sense of freedom.
And now she walks her dog every night, at midnight, because the police patrol car moves to a different neighborhood at eleven thirty, and by midnight, the bad element is comfortable enough to come out to play.
She wears dark clothes, and walks in the middle of the street.
She passes the violent-looking youths, and the drug dealers, and the homeless drunks, and she doesn't look around, and she doesn't look afraid.
She looks lost, but she looks like she knows exactly where she's going.
She doesn't look at me, but sometimes I wish she would, just so she would see my lack of pity; so she would see my understanding.
I wait for her to pass, and I throw my cigarette to a brutal death, and I drain my glass, and I go back inside, not paying attention if I lock the door or not.
And I halfway hope I see her again tomorrow night, and I halfway hope I don't.
Because seeing her is an odd comfort, but if I don't, it means either her plans worked out, or mine did.