At around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I take my dog Jango for his second walk. Jango, a little guy, needs a harness or I’ll lose the bastard; and so, he’s strapped into a cute green harness. We walk left at the end of the sidewalk, and after a few short turns, we hit the main drag. From there, we follow the street for a bit and make a right back into our neighborhood, closing our loop and returning home for treats, both of us.
The best walks, if I’m honest, are devoid of interaction. Jango is a vocal little son of a bitch, so he can rarely keep his thoughts to himself when we encounter a person or a dog. It’s an ordeal when we meet someone, so I generally try to avoid close contact. He’s not mean, but he is a bit much, and people don’t deserve that on their walks. Regardless, most are quiet walks, just Jango and I, and I look forward to them every day. There’s something so wonderful about a solitary walk with a dog, even if that dog is small and unruly.
But on this day, a brisk spring day, the first day of April, Jango and I encountered someone. It was on the main drag, just before the right turn back into the neighborhood to close the loop. I saw a man coming our way, and I began to lament that he made no attempt to switch sides – he didn’t have to, I would just prefer it for everybody’s sake that Jango didn’t erupt into his high-pitched cacophony. But, the main continued to advance on us.
When it became abundantly clear that our trajectories were to converge, I diverted our course to someone’s driveway, allowing the main to pass undisturbed. The man, wearing a mask tucked under his exposed nose, looked at Jango and I. He said, “I guess I’m the only one that’s lonely, huh?”
He kept walking, as did Jango and myself. It took me a few seconds to understand just how profoundly sad this man’s comment was. By the time I registered just what he’d said, he was already too far away. But, the man stayed on my mind. Me with my face hidden by a mask, sunglasses, and a hat, and my dog Jango intently sniffing at the wind, and felt lonely. That breaks my heart, I was compelled to write on the subject.
In truth, it didn’t even occur to me that I caused this to happen until much later in the evening, practically the following day. I didn’t want contact with other humans or animals, I said as much. But what I didn’t consider was that someone else might have needed contact with someone, anyone. I get that. If I’m honest, I still don’t want to encounter humans, and I won’t change anything really, but I feel awful that this may have caused this stranger some distress.
I doubt this man will ever read this, but it would be so lovely if he did. Regardless, I wanted to briefly address loneliness. This pandemic has given way to a new degree of loneliness that many of us never knew existed. While I’m fortunate to have my family and Jango, others didn’t/don’t have that unit, and so they suffered in isolation through the pandemic. It’s been especially hard on them, but all of us do feel it to some extent. I certainly do. Yes, I have my dog and family, but I always have that. Even for an introvert like myself, I miss people, I miss friendship, I miss hugging, I miss it all.
To the man who passed Jango and I on the street, thinking he’s the only one that’s lonely:
I sure am sorry you feel that way, but you’re certainly not alone.