written by Luke Tennis | illustrated by Jacopo Degl’innocenti
She looks ordinary, though she has terrific posture because she’s a dancer. She has wavy brown hair and thin lips and isn’t afraid to lock eyes with me; then she begins to look better and better, telling me all about her meditation, that she meditates every morning, though she’s never had any instruction. When I ask her how she knows she’s meditating, she says she just knows.
Then she reveals that she dances, dances around her apartment, it’s part of her meditation, she dances every morning. I try to picture her dancing, dancing nude, doing twirls, and I ask her does she twirl. She says sometimes, but mostly she moves, just moves, listening to a tape of what she calls her spiritual music. I ask how she feels afterward, and she says clean. I tell her I’m jealous, that I want to feel clean.
It’s one of those blind dates off the computer, a place called the Vanguard. I tell her I’d like to come over some morning and dance with her, but she answers, emphatically, “It’s something I do by myself.”
I didn’t mean anything by it, didn’t really expect her to let me come over, but perhaps she thinks I’m giving her a hard time. Though we change the subject, the conversation goes cold and we don’t stay much longer.
I feel bad afterward and a couple days later decide to call her, if only to tell her I had no intention of actually coming over one morning to horn in on her meditation. But instead I tell her I’ve been looking into it, into meditation, she made me curious. I tell her I’ve actually gotten some books out of the library on it, which of course isn’t true, but I plan to. I also say I enjoyed meeting her the other night.
The next evening, I meet her in a parking lot, and we shake hands. She seems slightly wary, keeps a couple feet away and won’t look directly at me this time, which worries me.
We’re there to take a walk in the park, and she’s brought her dog, only it’s a wiener dog, long and orange and waddling, and I think we’re never going to make it around the loop. The wiener dog doesn’t seem interested. She actually has to tug him out of her car.
We start out, but I begin to feel sorry for Mike, which is the wiener dog’s name, and when she starts talking about past lives I wonder to myself if Mike has a past life. Maybe he was cruel to dogs at one time, and I think of mentioning this to her as a joke, but I don’t even feel like it, and then I want to leave.
“How long have you had Mike?” I ask.
We’re barely a third of the way around the loop.
“Mike’s been with our family for a long time. He’s my mother’s. I’m just keeping him for the time being.”
I nod. “What do you feed him?”
“Well . . . dog food. Right, Mike?” she says, stooping to take off his leash.
Mike doesn’t seem to want to join the other dogs inside the loop. She tells me he’s old. The walk takes about a half hour, and in the parking lot we shake hands once more. For some reason I say I’ll call her, but she doesn’t say anything.
Mike’s eyes look sad, beleaguered. “C’mon, Mike,” she says, opening her car door.
About the artists:
Jacopo Degl’innocenti is from Florence, Italy, where he studied fine arts. He moved to New York City, where he participated in the School of Visual Arts Continuing Education Program. He works as a freelance illustrator and artist.
Luke Tennis has published fiction in different literary journals and won awards for his writing. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children and is completing a novel.