I decided to mix business with pleasure today, on my last day of freedom before the new semester begins tomorrow, and take my Maximes de la Rochefoucauld outside, to read on the patch of grass outside the old main branch of the Cambridge Library. I try to do this every once in a while, and I've started to recognize people. The regulars, if you will. There's the guy with the baby stroller and the wandering dog. There's the solo horseshoe-playing sunbather, who I remember particularly because, mid-game, an irate older gentleman approached him, screaming, from across the street. He was from the neighborhood association, he said (screamed), and playing horseshoes was prohibited. When questioned, he indicated a sign around the corner that supposedly stated this fact (it didn't). When pressed, he admitted that, well, in any case, The Sign did state that doing anything that damaged the (very ill-maintained) lawn was not allowed. (This, also, was conspicuously absent from the sign. What was specifically prohibited, according to The Sign? After a laundry list of offenses, and added almost as an afterthought : "posting of signs.") Add laptop guy sitting under tree, and a few miscellaneous kite-flying, picnicking, or ball-playing extras, and you have the full cast of the weekend (or holiday Monday) afternoon in the park.
I settled myself onto my blanket with my book. Laptop guy sitting under tree was back, and he had a dog with him this time. I've seen that dog around before, I thought. Usually a girl walks it. Must be his girlfriend. It's hard to miss a three-legged dog, in any case.
Two solid hours later, after more sunbathing and covert people-watching than reading, it must be admitted, I stood up, gave my blanket a few good shakes, and packed up my backpack. Looking over, it appeared laptop guy sitting under tree was preparing to leave as well. He attached the leash to his dog, and gave it a few good shakes, encouraging the dog to frisk about, jumping up and biting at the leash. Playing up the cute factor? I wondered. It worked, and I found myself smiling as I watched them. Then, as I walked by, laptop guy sitting under tree waved at me, and I admit, I didn't know quite what to do. Four years of living in the northeast has rendered me incapable of knowing what to do in such a situation, because, quite frankly, it doesn't usually happen. People don't say hi to strangers, and they most certainly don't wave. I played up the dark sunglasses factor and politely smiled back, although since I was already smiling from the cute dog antics it could very well have been indistinguishable from my previous expression. Besides, I thought, why would he be waving at me? He has a girlfriend. Unless...I mean, how many black, three-legged dogs could there be in the neighborhood? And then I thought about it, and realized that this dog seemed to be a bit bigger, more muscular, than I remembered. And what leg was that other dog missing, anyway? I thought it was the back leg, but this dog was missing his front leg...By this point I was nearly home, and the time for any reciprocal waving had long since passed.
With school starting tomorrow, I don't know if I'll have the time for relaxed, blanket-sprawled reading anymore. But maybe I'll be back there, on the parched, scratchy patch of grass next weekend, if the weather holds up. Maybe this time I'll say hi. We'll see.