“I hate going on these dumb walks with you every night. Can’t we just stay home?”
Pretty much sums up my relationship with my ex-husband.
My heart sunk to the soles of my feet. All of those nights holding hands exploring new neighborhoods as the sun set. Plotting dreams and making plans for our future and our imaginary family. It was all a lie. He would have much rather been watching his fifth re-peat of Sports Center, butt firmly planted on the couch.
The evening walks came to a halt after that moment. So did my marriage.
Then one day, I met a little chiweenie named Cricket.
Walks were a requirement now. And with every day and every step I learned to love them again. The musky fragrance of the leaves as they changed colors and swirled in mirrored puddles on black pavement in autumn. The way the snow sparkled in the winter like glitter spilled across a fifth grader’s desk. How the daylight stretched to the late hours of the evening when summer came and our noses couldn’t help but follow the billowing smoke from neighbors' barbecue grills.
When the sun would set we’d do our best not to stare into lit up windows. But it was hard not to admire the families sitting at the dinner table together, clinking glasses and passing casserole dishes. Friends watching the game, fists pumping in the air. Mother’s rocking babies with bare feet on hardwood floors.
Last night I watched my little four-legged friend ahead of me on the sidewalk. She skips when she walks now due to spending six months in a cast last year…but it provides a sense of whimsy. Her little bum wiggles back and forth as she zigzags to smell every daffodil. She touches noses with all the neighborhood pups that run to greet her behind white picket and iron fences. Neighbors wave and offer her treats as we approach.
And all at once it happens. The lump swells in my throat and tears form in the corner of my eyes. I look around as the sun casts light through fresh blooms and leaves like Chinese lanterns lit up across the sky. Tiny bugs dance to the robin and finch’s twilight song as the sweet smell of freshly cut grass and magnolias flood my senses. A child practices violin from an open window in the distance while others laugh and squeal in delight playing tag in a backyard. Historical homes with giant front porches and massive elm trees dot every street corner with perfectly cut shrubs and freshly strewn mulch.
I imagine myself, knees dug into damp earth, hands stinging from tiny splinters acquired from spreading fragrant bark across neglected flower beds. My pup lays next to me, belly sprawled across the cool grass, bright yellow tennis ball between her paws and a smile that could span two continents, tongue lightly dangling from the side of her open mouth.
Cricket tugs on her leash bringing me back to reality and I smile through the tear that found its way down my sun-burned cheek. I never lost my love for these walks. Or my ability to dream. What I realize now, though, is that sharing these moments with her is a dream come true all in itself. She has awoken my senses again. Filled me with as much whimsy as the skip in her step. So much in fact, that I find myself skipping right alongside her as we make our way back to the apartment. And I know in my heart that someday, I’ll pay her back for these magical nights with the life I’ve always hoped for.
We just have a few more walks to complete before we find our way home.