I went for a run by the river this morning.
The wind was up; miniature whitecaps crashed against the embankment. The river flows down to the locks which keep the harbor’s tides at bay; when I reach the locks I turn for home, running the return two miles over the capitol hill.
There were rowers out, not a common sight for January. I was watching the smooth skim of the shells over the water, captivated by the coxswain perched at the stern, the oarsmen moving like a single connected creature. My feet fell in with the pull-glide of the boats like a heartbeat–pull tha-thump tha-thump, glide, tha-thump tha-thump tha-thump tha-thump, pull tha-thump tha-thump, glide, tha-thump tha-thump tha-thump tha-thump–until I’d lost myself in the rhythm.
I almost didn’t notice the tree. I haven’t come this way in months. When I first started working in this city I would come here every day with my four-legged clientele. I would let the dogs do their business here under this tree and watch the boats.
If I were a shell on the river, I would have the coarseness of human nature for my coxswain. I was returning an Irish Wolfhound named Soairse to her owner’s garden level condo, when I walked in on the patriarch standing in the living room, drinking orange juice from the carton.
“Good morning,” I said, unhooking the big dog from her lead. I dropped the leash into its designated basket by the door, and turned to go. It was spring; the prospect of sunshine and a few more hours of walking by the river was a welcome one.
“Wait,” he leered, giving me a once over, eyes lingering on the way the faded denim of my favorite jeans hugged my ass. “Do you offer anything besides dog walking… services?”
He moved to set the juice carton down and missed; the carton thudded to the floor, leaking juice onto the rug. He staggered slightly when he tried to retrieve it. It was then I saw the vodka bottle behind him on the sideboard.
“Would you pay for more?” I asked coolly.
I saw in his eyes that he would. Not from me, not now. But he would.
I was no directionless vessel. My first taste of pleasure was by my own hand under my cabbage rose-printed duvet, a hundred pages into a stolen romance novel–an awkward affair, slim girlish hips pressed into the mattress, anxious pressure between my legs. I’ve been honing my skills ever since.
I quit dog-walking for good six months later.