I hadn’t seen Dave in well over a year though I had wondered about him periodically, kept my eyes open for him whenever we were at the park. Then this past Tuesday while on a run with Happy, there he was, I saw him again, walking from the opposite direction toward us, unmistakably Dave.
The first time Dave and I met each other was April 10, 2011. I didn’t want to forget the special details of having met him and so I wrote an entry about it in my journal. On that particular morning Happy and I were about to run across the northern-most foot bridge at the park when I spotted a creature that looked kind of like a duck but was larger in size and seemed to be walking on hind legs, torso almost vertical. My attention was arrested by this strange water fowl and I was trying to figure out who it might be – Loon? Some duck/goose hybrid? I was disconcerted as I’d not come across a water fowl quite like this one; it was strange and I kept thinking that it was missing its arms. As I got closer to the mystery creature, it took notice of me, or, rather, it took notice of me and Happy-the-dog, and it took off running in its armless verticality, so un-duck-like. I couldn’t help but giggle at the site and I must admit that I tried to do with my body what the mystery water fowl was doing with its body, and trying to do so made me giggle even more and broke the spell just in time for my attention to become arrested anew by another creature coming into my view.
And what stole my attention away from the strange duck was a human, specifically a human man. He had a red cap on his head and a blue track suit (with white stripes on the sides of the legs) on his body. He had white hair and wore wire-rimmed glasses. He was walking quite briskly but there was something particular and interesting about how he moved his body—his torso was bent forward at an angle from the hips such that his face was looking down at the ground rather that straight ahead. In order to alter the angle of his vision he swiveled his head from his neck so that his face was pointing to the side. There’s also the matter of how he used his arms. He swung them but they were very straight, stiff even, not bent from the elbows.
I watched him as he traveled toward me. At a certain moment he saw me and Happy, and we arrested his attention. “Hello, how are you?” I called. He responded, swiveling his head to the side, “Fantastic!” I replied, “I am as well.” Then he commented on the dog and how exuberant he was. I told him that my dog’s name is Happy, and he laughed and walked right up next to me and said, “I’m Dave.” I reached out my hand into his field of vision and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Jenny.” Dave replied, “Nice to meet you, Jenny!” and then talked a bit more about Happy, congratulated me for being out in the park running, said it was great to meet us. I said, “I’m sure we’ll see you around the park again soon.” At that, off we went in opposite directions around the pond. A few minutes later, when I’d reached the south end of the pond and Dave was still mid-way down the east side, I saw him turn his head to the side enough that he could catch sight of me. I waved.
Once Dave and I (and Happy) were no longer in range of each other, I attempted to replicate his way of moving in his body – I rotated forward at my hips, approximating the angle of his bend, stiffened and straightened my arms and swung them a bit more widely than usual, and I tried out swiveling my head on my neck so as to see to the side. (This is a practice I’ve been engaging for some time; I’ve been experimenting with trying out other creatures’ (human, dog, water fowl…) gestures and movements as a way into understanding something about them that is non-verbal, empathetic, embodied.)
So this past Tuesday I finally see him again, walking from the opposite direction toward us, unmistakably Dave, and yet not quite the same as he was when I first saw him a year ago. This time we notice each other simultaneously and this time he doesn’t have to swivel his head to the side in order to see me, because his torso is more upright (though not completely). Recognition flashes across his face when he sees me, though he doesn’t seem to recall my name. He smiles and says, “Looking good!” And I say, “Thanks, Dave!” Happy and I are running and Dave is walking; we lap him. When we pass by each other again, he laughs with joy and yells, “How wonderful!”
It is uncanny and beautiful to have met a creature only one time, to have had a fleeting and short interaction with him, but to remember him so vividly and wish to see him again, to know him. I suspect that one of the reasons why Dave is so memorable to me is because I not only observed him intensely from afar (after having observed intensely the strange water fowl, who is also memorable to me), as well as had the good fortune to meet him and exchange good words with him, but because of our sweet mutual curiosity. That’s why I just had to try out his style of embodiment, because to do so offered me a sense of closeness to him, an imaginal access into his particular way of being in the world – special, singular Dave.