If you read my last post, you know I finally took some initiative and called on other gays and lesbians in my area to join me on a forest walk. While I am told that fifty people turned up for the annual potluck a few weeks ago, we had eight of us on the walk. Four of them dogs. (I had an extra one since my ex offloaded his newly acquired schnauzer for the weekend to allow him to take in the Outgames and Pride Parade. Not all of us sacrifice everything for our beloved canines.)
If there had been any thought of love in the cedars—and there hadn’t—it was snapped at the outset. No, I didn’t get the sense that any of them were coupled, but at 46, I represented the younger generation. The other three were longtime residents who knew each other by name, acquaintances at best. Sheila and Curt did a run-through of their latest health scares while Mitch, the eldest, focused on taming his two-year-old beast which in his words was “part Mastiff, part pony.” I kept my two dogs close, worrying about how my ex would take the news that his pooch became a Scooby Snack.
The conversation was stilted during the walk, but it didn’t matter. Dogs are like toddlers, constant fodder for trivial talk.
“Yes, he always seems to poop in the middle of the path.”
“Mine is so much better off-leash. Really.”
“Does he mean anything when he bares his teeth like that?”
Curt, the chattiest, was the only one without a dog. He interspersed the dog talk with tidbits about the healing powers of local berries and running commentary on hippie activities in the park before retirees and yuppy weekenders changed everything.
I tried my best to be sociable, but I spent much of the time observing and thinking. These three people represented me in twenty years—assuming I am still single and if I am lucky. Each was in good shape, each with plenty to keep them vibrant.
For Sheila, it was her Labradoodle whom she walked early each morning with a group of women in her neighborhood. She had some medical condition for which she’d recently sent out an email asking for donations to support a related fundraiser. This was her second walk of the morning, but she was the one who suggested we take a longer route than what I’d initially proposed.
By appearance, Curt seemed like a flashback, still dressed as he would have twenty years ago in a sleeveless tee, construction boots, jean shorts, a colorful hanky in the back pocket and a feather earring dangling from one ear. I’ll give him credit—the look suited him. Makeover candidate? Perhaps, but no urgency. When you are confident, you can carry off anything. Curt was heading for the ferry after our walk, set to take in a weekend of the Pride Parade, a Pride art exhibit, a play and a night at a club. “I might get a little bit naughty,” he whispered, a devilish smile suppressing any iota of self-doubt. Once back home, he’d be back to writing, painting and freezing berries for winter.
Mitch was the quietest. He represented my most likely flash forward. While Sheila and Curt had attended the potluck, Mitch stayed away intentionally. Curt, in fact, thought I might have the wrong name as we waited and I mentioned that Mitch had replied that he was coming. “Oh, Mitch doesn’t come to anything. He’s happy being antisocial.” Like me, Mitch is a vegetarian. While we didn’t exchange notes, I am sure the diet plays a factor in his passing on potlucks. During the walk, it came out that Mitch held the same career as I currently have. He, in fact, worked at the same site where I am in the Lower Mainland. That, of course, was thirty years ago.
Mitch was reserved in every way, a stark contrast to out-there Curt and the take-charge, abrupt Sheila. He answered questions cordially, but did not elaborate. He dressed conservatively, a polo shirt neatly tucked into pressed jeans. He followed up the walk with a thank-you email and a link to other local trails, something he’d referred to during our outing. Mitch was a man of his word.
Sometimes with my single gay friends, we’ve wondered what it will be like to grow old alone. We joked about it in our late twenties. The questions seem more sobering now. How will I know if I am going senile? Who will call 911 if I have a stroke? How long might it take before I am found?
Morbid? I suppose. But there have been some recent news accounts that make the implausible plausible. Perhaps a group of us can book a wing in a nursing home. Little rainbow banners can adorn the hallway, guiding us “home” should we lose our way.
Staying vibrant is essential. We should all have trailblazers ahead of us. To be sure, Mitch is not creating a path through slash and burn tactics. He strikes me as the type to hold his pruners through a pair of gloves, snipping away any errant weeds or blackberry offshoots. Yes, there is a clearing. Should I remain single, quiet contentment is possible.
I’ll post another invite for another walk at another park in the next couple of weeks. I’m not looking for a crowd of fifty. A human headcount of four is just fine. Or something like that. A little fresh air is always good.