I made a rookie mistake today, something that no one who has lived in Seattle for 10 years should still do. Upon waking up to sunshine and clear skies, I thought to myself, Wonderful—it’ll be nice out today. I should have known better than to anger the Rain Gods with my presumptuousness.
I left my rain jacket in the front hall closet and loaded the dogs into the car for a trip to the off-leash dog park at Marymoor Park. Marymoor is across the floating bridges from West Seattle and about a thirty-minute drive from my house, so I bring the dogs there for a treat only every now and then to let them swim in the Sammamish River. The whole way there, the sun beat down on me through the windshield (I even wore my sunglasses!) and though the temperature gauge on my dashboard still only showed a crisp 41 degrees, it was indeed wonderful weather.
I saw clouds at the fringe of the Redmond area but ignored them, thinking I might just will them to stay away. We made one happy loop around the trails and then it began to rain. I could still see blue skies past the rim of the park and prayed that the condition would hold, but the damage to the Rain Gods had already been done. The sky simply opened itself up and began to dump on us, and within a minute all I could see was the angry gray blanket of a downpour as far as my eyes could reach.
Usually, my dogs love to bound and play in the rain—as if just knowing how miserable I am makes the whole thing somehow more adventurous. But today they huddled next to my legs under some trees, the three of us hoping that the weather would let up just enough to make it back to the car.
Certainly I must tough out similar conditions at the dog park all the time, because if I kept the dogs home due to every instance of bad weather, we’d practically never leave the house. But this—this rain was something else. I was drenched in moments and absolutely freezing, my t-shirt soaked up the front where the zipper of my fleece failed to keep me dry, and my legs totally soaked from the ankles up. Then I felt a hand at my back as I came through the trees and out into the open fields.
An older man holding an umbrella came running over to me, and let me walk with him all the way back to the parking lot.
“It was nice for a while earlier, wasn’t it?” he said.
“Should’ve known.” I replied.
The rest of the walk, he exchanged a pleasant conversation about dogs and dog park etiquette. He seemed to be in his early seventies or so, and was dressed somewhat inappropriately for the dog park in a Members Only jacket and penny loafers. I would have thought that he’d scoff at my self-knit gnome hat and purple yoga pants, but I got the feeling he was the kind of person who never noticed silly things like fashion.
When I pulled my keys out of my soaked pocket, I have to admit I was sad to say goodbye to my new friend. I toweled the dogs off as best I could and then turned the heat on full blast inside the warming car. Though I hadn’t started the windshield wipers and couldn’t be sure through the blurry glass, I could have sworn I saw the old man sidle up next to another stranded dog walker in the rain. Men my age just don’t do things like this.
Reminds me of a poem I wrote a few years ago after an elderly man helped me put on a sweater on an airplane, a gesture I’d only seen in movies.
Old men watch me eating. They stare
open-mouthed at my teeth
and my too-round cheeks
as I talk endlessly
and swing one leg
over the other, bouncing my foot
like the spring inside a pen,
clicking loose then tight and loose again,
tight and then loose.
My pretty face, my feathery skin,
my constant rock and bounce,
attract their polite stares.
Old men remind me of my shoelaces:
Careful , or you’ll be on the floor.
I blush at their concern. They do what men
don’t do anymore; on a crowded airplane
they help my arms into the holes of my sweater.
Hold the door even for women they don’t know.
Old men see my patterned tights,
my strange shoes, my bare back,
and hear my loud voice. I’m sure they wonder
about my strange vernacular.
We feel the passage of the other’s nearness
as we walk in the deli, choosing salads and juices
to fill our plastic baskets.
I smile my sweet-girl smile in line,
look at their food as it lurches forward
on the wet conveyor belt,
and they look at mine.