He makes smoking look kickass, and walking the dog a la mode. Now mix that in with a refractory slouch and you get the love of my life (at least, on weekends). He seems tetchy as I jog up beside him, pulled along by an equally crotchety Labrador.
I flash him a nervous side grin as he quirk his eyebrows at me (which, in turn, makes his cig quirk upwards briefly). I notice the dark circles framing his eyes, but instead of asking for his sleeping patterns like I'm tempted to, I refrain and ask him about his animal companion instead.
"Aha, nice dog you have there!" I tell him through the patented smile I haven't quite managed to wipe off yet. Indistinctly, I feel like I'm still at my part-time job at Wendy's, and the thought makes me snippily compose my face – I certainly do not want to seem like I'm trying to hard-sell him something.
I watch his eyes blink repetitively – slow, conscious blinks as if he's trying to determine whether the person in front of him is human. I smile warmly (not showing teeth, because that might be threatening) to demonstrate that I'm probably the most benignant of a human specimen he could find in a square mile. This continues for about three seconds, and during that long trying silence, I briefly wonder whether dog boy is mute.
The Labrador is currently drooling over my slippered toes.
I vainly attempt to ignore the slimy dribble between my toes, fail spectacularly in less than two seconds, yank my feet away and squat down in one fluid, theatrical movement to cover my act of disgust. I pretend to coo over the overgrown dog, while vehemently staring it down at the same time.
The dog doesn't notice. It seems to enjoy being scratched behind the ears all the same.
After carefully schooling my face, I peer up at my weekend crush and ask, "So, what's his name?"
Said Labrador is currently slobbering my hand as if I was a dog biscuit.
I try not to let my revulsion show on my face – my entire body freezes like a statue sideshow. This time, dog boy frowns. Perhaps, he is shy and unaccustomed to such attention.
He pulls the cigarette out from between his lips with his unused hand and exhales tendrils of cancerous smoke.
"Bootsie, Blackie, or something," he says while waving the cigarette in a broad motion uncharacteristic of him, "I don't give a damn really. It's not my dog."
"Oh," I say, "I see." My fingers stop moving.
"Well, you seem like a nice dog lover and all," he says as he shifted his weight to the other foot and gravel scrunches sharply under his boots, "But personally, I hate them. Sorry."
This time, it's my turn to blink (albeit more rapidly) as I watch dog boy walks away, slogging behind the Labrador straining at its leash like a grumpy recluse bawling at his dog sled. Cigarette smoke lingers in the stale autumn air. I wipe the slobbered hand down my overcoat and resist the silly impulse to sniff my hand.
Damn. Maybe I should have asked dog boy if he was insomniac instead. But for now, there is nothing I can do but mourn my losses in a huge tub of sloppy Neapolitan ice cream.
And anyway, there's always next weekend!