I felt anxious about going there. It was just a park. It was just a dog walk. I just wasn’t in the mood. He doesn’t always listen and permitting freedom is always a risk.
Just do it.
We stood in the centre of the grassy square. It was not fenced in on two sides. Just lined with trees and a path, then parked cars.
The sky was a sheet of grey. Impenetrable. The park was mostly empty, though still too full for my liking.
I let him off and started to throw the ball. He was occupied and I was starting to feel relaxed. It was a mild, muddy sort of autumnal day.
I noticed he had become distracted as he wandered away in the direction of two little dogs, off the lead, walking ahead of two female owners.
They bounded towards him and as he bounded right back in his larger-than-life fashion, the littlest of the two – a daschund – halted, gave a whimper, then bolted in the other direction.
The owner’s companion barked out a laugh. My dog, of course, accepted the challenge and chased with enthusiasm.
I began my pursuit as they started to circle the playground. They had distanced themselves quite quickly and so I turned to meet them as they came back around, aware that they would soon arrive at a perimeter of the park with nothing between them and a road.
The other owner was already there and as I looked to where the dogs were currently positioned, I realised only my dog was finishing the circuit and his pace had slowed. I called him and he came right around to me, saw another dog and passed straight by. Cheers, mate.
But, where was the daschund?
The owner was calling for her. She had disappeared level with a primary school, perhaps having squeezed through the wrought iron fence.
My stomach dropped, my heart started to pound.
The dog had gone.
My dog chased it.
It was his fault.
It was my fault.
He was back on the lead as I watched them calling and waiting.
They caught the attention of another dog walker and the three of them went off down the side of the school into an adjacent park area in front of some apartments.
My heart continued to accuse me. I was afraid. What if they didn’t find it? My stomach turned at the thought.
What should I do? Go home? I couldn’t. The guilt I felt at the idea flooded through me.
I can’t stand here all day.
Should I offer to help?
That would mean going and facing them. I need to say sorry for an unmade mistake. For an unfortunate circumstance. For an unhappy happening.
I can’t just leave it.
But, I don’t want to expose myself to the heat of their accusatory fear, if they haven’t found her.
It’s not easy to lay oneself on the line. To be one who cares more about sorry than about feeling good.
I walk around and the assisting dog walker comes by.
“Have they found it?” I ask, hope saturating my words.
“No, poor little thing!” He says, mournfully.
Oh. I slow.
Don’t overthink it. Keep walking.
I ventured down the path and saw them.
“Have you seen a little daschund?” Said the friend.
“No, I haven’t. I’m so sorry, it was my dog that was chasing it.”
“Oh don’t worry, they were just playing.” She said. Relief came but didn’t penetrate.
“I want to help look but I think my dog being here won’t help. I’ll take him home and come back, I live close.”
I walked him fast. Once I was back into the park I start to run. When I returned, they were gone.
Did they find it?
I’ll probably never know.
My only comfort, is sorry.
“Where are we Mum?”
“Trying to find a parking space.” I told them we’d be ten minutes, fifteen minutes ago and we still weren’t parked. There were no spaces but it was such a small car park that you had to queue to get out as well as in.
“What are we doing Mum?” She calls again, from the back.
“Trying to find a space sweetheart. There aren’t any here so we need to go somewhere else.”
“Where are we going?” She asks.
“For coffee with Aunty and Grandma.” As I’ve already said at least three times.
I manage to exit. A pointless five minutes in that place. We could have walked it by now.
I drive around the bend to find a queue stretching back from the junction.
As I near the end, I notice the white van in front has its reverse lights on. It starts to move towards me, and not slowly either. I slam my hand on the steering wheel and struggle to sound the horn (why do they make it so you have to find this specific spot on such a large object?).
I guess it wasn’t the horn that prompted them to stop, I’ll venture it was the obtuse front of my car that was, rather inconsiderately, in the way.
A woman gets out of the van. She looks like she is wearing a traffic warden’s outfit. The element of irony doesn’t lose itself on me. She arrives at the window to make her speech.
“Sorry but I had no choice because that guy was trying to reverse into that space.”
What? Did she really just say that?
“Erm, yeah ok, but that doesn’t mean you can hit my car!” I consider it a public service to say this and educate this woman regarding what choices she has permission to make.
“Yeah sorry, I don’t think there’s any damage though.” I get out and look. Doesn’t seem to be any. There is a queue of traffic. I make the unwise decision to not take any details or the number plate.
“No, doesn’t seem to be any.”
“Ok, so… OK?”
“Yep, no worries.” I get in the car and she says something to her friend she was willing to smash up another car in order to help. Probably, you’re welcome.
As she opens her door she waves, I smile and nod. No harm, no foul.
Sorry but… It wasn’t my fault. I had NO choice.
Is that her best version of sorry?
I hugged him and smiling, said:
“I’m sorry but I haven’t got you an advent calendar, but that’s ok, I know you won’t have gotten me one!” There was a smile on my lips as he grew serious and awkward, as if he had a disappointing confession.
“Well, erm, I have got you some books.” He was tentative. My chin dropped.
“Yeah, some, but not all.” He uttered. There was no trace of smugness, which made the descending shame feel heavier.
“Oh. I’m sorry.” I said, struck-dumb by my own idiocy and selfishness.
“That’s ok.” He offered, and he meant it. Why isn’t he punishing me with a triumphant Ah-ha!?
The kids were downstairs. The dinner was over-cooking. Also burning, was my face.
How could I have said that? Even if he had got me nothing, it wasn’t right. I made a hurtful assumption.
Yet he forgave it before I even said the word. It increased my shame but I felt secure in the love that didn’t triumph over me. That didn’t wave my shame around like a victory flag.
It was a shame that deepened my sorry and will ensure those words never come up, like vomit, again.