I had to go to campus anyway to get my psych meds refilled, so I took a sandwich and Los Ríos Profundos up into the hills, which are of course inhabited by the rich but surprisingly accessible; between the enormous garages and private tennis courts are a number of public paths and stairways, including some lovely old stonework that must have started out as part of someone’s Xanadu, leading into the open space preserve. From time to time I entertain ideas of getting back in shape; glance at those hills and you will understand what happens when a sloth like me tries to climb them. But I got up to a quiet roadside patch with the whole bay (I mean the whole damn bay, north and south) spread out below like liquid carpet; and there was downtown San Francisco poking gamely at the clouds. When I had regained homeostasis I took out my book and my lunch, at which point ten large and presumptous dogs charged around the bend and relieved me of my sandwich. They were followed by a yuppie woman in jogging pants.
“Hey! Bad dogs! Bad dogs!” she shouted, grabbed the current possessor of the sandwich and slapped ineffectually at its flank. “Did they get it?”
“Yeah,” I said. “They got it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Theybad dog! If I had any money, I’d give you some.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“They don’t usually do that,” she said.
“I see,” I said, and because something else seemed required, “That’s a lot of dogs you have.”
She moved on. The heap of dogs followed her. I still had an apple, so I ate it, watched the clouds and felt a new chill in the wind. Since J. started working regular hours I’ve been alone more often and am starting to remember those long hours in Portland when I felt peripheral to everything. The indiscriminate yearning, the useless doe-eyed gaze down the road not taken (presumably leading to the same cliff) was just part of youth, I thought; but maybe it sneaks back in whenever you feel yourself edging off the rails. Anyway, I have an oral exam in nine days and I’m not looking for alternatives, because no matter where you end up you can’t skirt the baselines of survival and duty. After the apple I was still hungry, so I had to go home and make another sandwich.