in which it was April 2020, and I was losing it, just a little bit

Lately I’ve been thinking it’d be nice to have a dog.

I walk around my neighborhood empty handed, aimless, taking meaningless turns and paths.
Maybe Altgeld this afternoon, maybe back down Talman. 

The Boulevard has become too dangerous. Too many people to dodge! 
Everyone’s a runner, it seems. Running and running and running and all I want to do is 
Until I feel NORMAL again, 
until the world makes some kind of sense again.

Is it weird that I missed my commute to work the other day? 
But I don’t miss business casual attire. Fuck business casual.

Anyway, walking feels important right now, so I commit to it daily.

It’s good to maintain a SCHEDULE, the INTERNET tells me. 
These THOUGHTS & FEELINGS are NORMAL, the Instagram MEMES say.

So I’ve been walking, winding around the neighborhood, and it feels like venturing out to a party, because after all, anything could happen — I’m outside!

Still, I’ve been thinking it might be nice to have a dog to come along, even if you do have to pick up their SHIT and carry it around in a little baggie as you go. 

The dog walkers are everywhere, content,
dare I say, SMUG, with their job to fulfill. 

I stuff my hands in the pockets of my WILD FEMINIST bomber, feeling like a FREAK.
There’s not a point, exactly — just a casual post-work stroll! 




A walk. Yes. A walk sounds good. 

Last week it was my birthday. 36.
Who cares!
Turns out, I do. 

Last week on my walk, not quite yet wishing I had a dog with me, in fact feeling quite free,

I turned on Maplewood on a whim, not yet ready to call it quits. 

The air felt great hitting my cheeks; my legs felt prickly
from the extra work they’d been doing lately. 

Walking! What a TREAT!

Ahead of me on the block I spotted the couple who had dodged me on a previous street and GROANED, loudly enough my dog, if I’d had one, would have looked up inquisitively.

The woman, a blur in yoga pants and parka;
the man, in a red puffer and a face mask puzzlingly not covering his nose. 

When they’d started to come near me on the other side street,
he’d grabbed her hand and JERKED her across the street,
eyeing me like he knew something I didn’t. 

I half expected him to stage whisper to her as they crossed the street:
She doesn’t even have a DOG! 

(They didn’t have a dog, either.)

But SURPRISE! I knew something HE didn’t, clearly, because while I didn’t have a dog’s leash or a person’s arm to jerk around, I do know this: a face mask is also supposed to cover your NOSE.

Oh, I had dark thoughts about this guy. I felt just like Matt Berninger — “you’d never believe the shitty thoughts I think” — but it’s not a Hollywood summer and we can’t meet our friends out for dinner. 

I kept staring at the couple.

They had stopped; he was crouched down; what was he up to? 

And then, I spotted her: 


A white cat, short-haired, with a pink collar.
Staring at them, bored.

I slowed down, so as not to disturb the SCENE.
I was still far enough away this time I could cross the street FIRST!

The couple gave up and went back to walking, so caught up in the disappointment
of not winning the cat’s favor
that they forgot I was a HUMAN, WALKING THREAT approaching. 

As I passed,
I felt guilty for my terrible thoughts, so I offered up

It was not returned.

I approached the house with the cat.
She looked at me — empty handed, aimless —
and I looked at her.

“Hi, kitty,” I said. 

She jumped off the porch and came running toward me.
I crouched down and pet her, gently. 

She lifted her chin, as if I’d asked, so I could read the name on the collar:


She purred and I grinned,
dare I say, SMUG,
having fulfilled my job at last. 

originally written in April 2020; edited 12.2.22

One response to “DUFFY ON MAPLEWOOD”

  1. I love this! You captured the feelings I shared of the early bad days of Covid. You conquered your despair of the isolation we were all feeling and turned a bad day into a good one. Sometimes small victories are the most important.


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