I was running. Hard, sloppy running. Arms flailing. Legs moving faster than I could keep up with. I couldn’t catch my breath. My side started hurting; my lungs were burning; my heart was racing.
This wasn’t a dream. It was real life.
My dog, Durango (Cesar Chavez Blvd.) Cox, had jumped the fence – like in a single bound – and took off down the alley behind my house.
I was running after her, breathlessly shouting things like “Durango! Stop! Come! Durango! This isn’t funny!” There were even moments of pleading, “Please stop. Please. I can’t run anymore.”
But she didn’t. She just kept running – pausing briefly to pee on various neighbors’ lawns, (you’re welcome, neighbors!), then bolting as soon as I would get close. We ran down two streets and around the block, circling back towards my house.
Then, finally, I outsmarted her – or she got tired…whatever – and I caught her. In the middle of the street.
And it was at that point that I puked. It was the hard running coupled with the flashes of watching her get hit by a car should she reach the busy street by my house.
I grabbed her in a bear hug and collapsed in the middle of the street. (Drama much?) It was while I lay there, hoping that if a car came they would notice me and not kill us both, that I was overcome with sadness. Apparently, sprinting can bring out the grief in you. I guess while you’re catching your breath, nostalgia creeps in. Who knew?
It was the day after Thanksgiving – the second Thanksgiving since my father died. It was also the day before his birthday – the second birthday since he died.
Stupid, asshole dog.
I was tired. I had collapsed in the street. I had vomit in my short hair. And now…I was sad.
I realized that I had been planted in the middle of the street longer than one probably should be, so I grabbed Durango by her collar and crawled to the curb, whereupon I was promptly struck in the head by an acorn.
Stupid, asshole tree.
I was now officially crying, holding my dog by the collar, looking up as acorns pelted me from above when I heard, “Holy shit, girl! You were running like a mother fucker.”
The laughter was immediate. I mean, seriously, who blurts that out to a crying stranger in the street?
I looked up. It was an older woman. And by “older,” I mean, she was in her eighties or hundreds or whatever. She had on knee socks, an oversized housedress, and a scarf that covered her head.
And now, I was cry laughing – my favorite kind of laughter.
“I caught her,” I managed to snort out.
“Hell yeah you did,” she shot back.
She was chuckling – a smoker’s chuckle. Why is it that smokers always live until they are 412 years old? I was laughing through my tears. We laughed for a moment, holding each other’s attention from across the street, then…
I yelled “Happy Thanksgiving!” as I picked up my stupid, asshole dog and walked away from the stupid, asshole tree.
“You, too!” She shouted back.
Then, I laughed all the way back to my house.
Today, as I celebrate the second Christmas since my father died I am struck by this recent memory. Laughter is my favorite antidote. Even in sadness, a woman shouting curse words from across the street can bring a smile to my face.
So, on Christmas, and in the coming year, I wish you laughter. I urge you to find the humor in the sadness. More specifically, Merry Christmas, mother fucker!