"Aren't you afraid sometimes that you might be missing all the important things?"
"Do you know what the important things are?"
"That's it, though. I don't know what they are. I've lost faith. Nothing seems important if I think about it too much. Nothing feels important."
"When I was younger, everything was important. The words to a song. Who you sat beside in class. The places we'd hang out at on weekends."
"Yeah, I remember when going out to a restaurant was a special thing. We'd read through all the weekend reviews and then pick some place and it didn't really even matter what place that was because it was great just to be able to have enough money to go out and eat, you know, to have someone else prepare a meal for you. Now going to a restaurant, well, usually it's just for food, to fill my stomache. To get something made quickly so I can bring it back to my desk to eat while I'm working."
Tom's one of the regulars at the dog park. Sam, his dog, is a Pointer, thin from nerves. Sam spends most of his time at the park ignoring the other dogs. He runs from tree to tree or does laps of the baseball diamond in search of squirrels. He does this everyday even though squirrels are nowhere to be seen. He runs until he is exhausted or until he finds a pile of fresh shit to roll in. Sam doesn't just roll in shit, he burrows into it, gets it smeared all across the front of his chest, up his neck and onto his snout. Tom always watches Sam transform himself from dog to shit pariah. Tom swears but does nothing to stop Sam because he figures by the time he gets over there, it's going to be too late. When Sam has satisfied this fecal fetish, he becomes sociable and wants to play with the other dogs or comes by and say hello to the owners by rubbing up against them. The first time he did this, I walked home with the smell of shit wafting up from Stella and from my pant leg. I gave Stella a bath and washed out the pants as soon as I got back. Now when Sam comes by post shit-roll, I try to keep him away with my shoe.
Sam sometimes has problems with Dundee. Dundee is a Australian Cattle Dog. Both dogs still have their balls and they sometimes get territorial with each other and end up in a scuffle. If they fight, it's usually over a female dog. Dundee can be a bit of a horndog when the scent in the air is ripe enough.
The dogs roam, sometimes they chase, sometimes they graze on the grass. We owners stand around. Sometime we talk. This morning Marcus, Dundee's owner, comes at me as soon as I walk in through the gate to the park.
"You know that neighbour I was telling you about? I think I told you about him? Well, now he says he's going to get a lawyer. You know, I know what he's doing. He wants to have it both ways. He wants to keep the access to his backyard but he doesn't want to let anyone else have access to theirs. Yeah, because he's talked to his neighbour, the guy on the other side and his neighbour is going to keep his access open so that he'll still have ... uh, still be able to get into his backyard but he wants to close off his, uh, my neighbour wants to close off his backyard so that I won't be able to have access. See, he thinks he can get his neighbour to agree to keep his access open and then it doesn't matter what I do. He's such a fucking prick. You know, I used to let him borrow my long ladder and he used to just come into my backyard and borrow my ladder without asking and I didn't mind but now, do you think I'm going to let him borrow my ladder. No fucking way. He's not borrowing anything. I don't want to talk to that prick anymore. You know I always used to be you know, like neighbourly and I'd say hello to him but now I don't want to have anything to do with that prick. I asked my lawyer to look into it and my lawyer says I have right of way because that access has always been there and I told my neighbour that so now he says he's going to talk to his lawyer. He doesn't have a lawyer, that prick. He's just bluffing. He's such a fucking asshole. You know, that fucking asshole, what a prick."
I have no idea what Marcus is talking about.
"My neighbour thinks that just because I've been nice to him before he can push me around now. Well, there's no way. I'm not letting him push me around. You know he's this fucking short little guy too. I mean that's what happens when you're too nice to someone. They just try to fuck you over. What a prick. Next time I see him, I'm not even going to look at him. I'm going to totally ignore the fucker. He's not borrowing my ladder anymore, that's for sure. From now on, if he wants to talk to me, he can talk through my lawyer. I'm going to have my lawyer write him a letter. It's better to get everything down in writing so that everything is there in case this thing goes to arbitration. You know, the uh, the uh, the uh, uh, uh the O.M.B. My lawyer says he doesn't have a case. I mean it's so fucking obvious he doesn't have a case but you know he's just doing it because he thinks he can get away with it. He thinks he can have his cake and eat it too. I really can't stand that fucking prick. What a fucking prick, he is."
I try to step away. Marcus keeps pace beside me.
"I mean, he's just doing this because he thinks he can still have access because he's talked to his neighbour and so for him it's like who cares what I do. But the thing is, see, is that I know he can't just go ahead and close off his part of the access because I have right of way. He thinks he can just go ahead and do that. Yeah, well, I don't fucking think so."
Marcus is a close talker. He likes to keep his audience within spittle distance. If you back away, he'll come forward. If you side step, he'll match your movement. If you try to make a quick dodge around him, he'll step in front of you to prevent you from escaping. He once followed me across the park as I walked over to where Stella had taken a dump and he stood over me, continuing his review of last night's veal and foie gras, while I scooped up poop into a plastic bag.
This morning, Tom relieves me of my ordeal, simply by showing up at the park. Marcus sees him, walks over to him and continues the conversation with a fresh audience. Tom is more receptive than I am. He's able to tolerate the bombardment better and he's even good at deflecting it. His technique is forceful without being overly abrupt or loud. He simply butts in and continues to talk over Marcus, and I believe this is the key, without raising his voice until Marcus is reduced to short rebuttals.
"... and then my neighbour calls me up and tells me that he wants to come over and talk about the situation and I just think fuck him, you know, it's like I've done my part so fuck him. I mean who does he think ..."
"Marcus, you still fighting with your neighbour?"
" ... I am. I mean does he ..."
"You've been fighting with your neighbour for at least two weeks now."
"I mean does he ..."
"It's like every morning you're fighting with your neighbour."
"No, I mean he ..."
"Maybe you need to just leave it alone for a while."
"No, yeah, but I mean he ..."
"Sometimes I find that if I leave something alone for a while it resolves itself."
"No, yeah, well no this isn't ..."
"Maybe instead of concentrating on the negative things, you could spend some time dealing with more positive things."
"Uh, yeah well, that's ..."
"If you're always thinking about negative things, your life starts to become negative."
"Yeah, right. Yeah, but come on, life's not that sim ..."
"Pick something out that's meaningful to you and spend some time just being happy with that."
"Yeah, no, I know but ..."
"No, I know ..."
"What's important to you?"
"No, I know ..."
"What's something you really care about?"
"No, I know, but ..."
"Is there something in your life you really love? Most people don't have anything they really love. Do you have anything?"
"Yeah, well, of course, uh ..."
"Well, I, uh, really like the way I know people ... who ... uh ...can get things done for me for ... uh ... free."
"Like my furnace broke down and I had this guy I knew come over and take a look at it and fix it up. Like it broke down and I called him and he came over the same day, like later on that day, right after I got home from work. You know how some people say they'll do something and then don't do it or they keep saying they'll do it but never do, well this guy came over on the same day and fixed the furnace and he didn't charge me or anything and then after he was going to ..."
"So you're saying that you feel good about the relationships you have with other people and that those relationships bring you some happiness."
"Yeah, um, yeah, that's right."
"Well that's good."