When I first saw her, she was talking to Dave and our host. I walked over and said, “You look so familiar.”
“You look familiar, too,” said she. I love that moment when two people recognize each other without knowing quite how. It could be past lives or high school or almost anything. It’s so full of possibility. She cocked her head, “Did I used to buy drugs from you?”
Dave and our host laughed, like maybe they’d been talking about drug legislation or something before I walked up. “Oh, that’s right!” I said, “You were a great customer.”
“You were an excellent dealer.” It’s so much fun to improvise with a complete stranger, especially when it’s not in a theatrical setting. It’s a leap of faith in adult playfulness potential.
We continued a few more rounds of banter, and I was really starting to be pleased with my comebacks when she cocked her head the other way and said , “Oh, now I know you. You’re the person whose dog bit my dog.”
“Of course,” I said, feeling mortified but also not wanting to look mortified. Bite is such a strong word. Was it really a bite? Wasn’t it more of a, you know, more of a something you wouldn’t go right out and call a bite?
“What?” said Dave.
“Yes, two little cuts on his face,” she added. “And it was strange because we’d already passed by and then your dog just turned around and bit my dog.”
Our host, still smiling, said something like, “This actually happened?”
“Yep,” I said. “Is he okay?”
“Oh, yes,”‘ she said. But she didn’t change the subject. And clearly I couldn’t change the subject. Actually I became fixated, mentioning all sorts of details from the event. “It was on Sunnyside. He was so cute. Did you get your luggage back? Did I give you my number and stuff, just in case?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “You gave me your card.”
There was some silence, and I wondered if I should have done more, like offered money right off the bat. Was that what she meant? Did she think I was just some irresponsible dog owner, whose dog goes around biting people? Was I just some irresponsible dog owner? “She’s never bitten another dog before,” I said.
“Oh, really?” she said.
“She’s actually good with most dogs,” said Dave.
“Is she really?”
“She tends to snap her jaws,” said Dave, “but she doesn’t usually make contact.”
“She has gotten bits of fur from time to time,” I added, for full disclosure. Eventually we moved on to other topics, and I tried to adjust to my new role as that person whose dog bit her dog.
For full disclosure, I should have added that she also snapped at a friend of ours on New Years Eve. But in her defense, we’d told our guests repeatedly not to pet her. She looks, like most dogs in the world, like she would like to be petted, but she doesn’t. Or rather she does, but only under certain very specific circumstances which are impossible to predict or quantify. She would make a terrible scene partner.