Leo and Precious circled Franny’s block. David had not, so far as Leo could tell, emerged back onto the street. What could he be doing in there for so long? Or did he leave, and I missed him? Leo fretted.
And fretting was not Leo’s favorite emotion. He typically filled his time with tasks and his mind with thoughts, in order to avoid fretting. Over the course of his life, Leo had seen others give in to worry as a raison d’être. He’d even convinced himself that being lost in worry was a mark of adulthood; and so, determined to avoid it, he worked hard not to become a real adult.
Women in his life seemed to know this about him. First, they were drawn to his carefree attitude. Then, they grew frustrated with what seemed to be a lack of caring. Finally, they would confront him with an ultimatum: grow up or get out.
He would get out, lovingly, understandingly, sad that he could not be the person they seemed to want, resolute in his determination not to be that boring, worry-full adult.
Only recently did he realize that worry had snuck in through the back door, a loophole in his emotional logic. His determination not to succumb to a life of fretting made worrying about worrying his constant companion.
Crushed by this realization, and lost in fretting, Leo watched the door to Franny’s apartment building. Precious sat patiently at the other end of the leash, occasionally sniffing something within nose-reach. The scruffy old dog had felt many human emotions transmitted down that length of nylon webbing: fear, joy, sadness, grief, distraction, elation, silliness, and, of course, worry. In her canine way, she took them all in stride. Humans were nothing if not changeable, transitioning through emotional states the way dogs move through a stand of tall grass, sniffing every molecule that tells the story of the past twelve to forty-eight hours of the site. Wait five seconds, the wind will shift, and you will learn something new.
Dogs, however, do not judge the smells that come their way. They simply take them in, translate them into useful information, and move on. Humans are full of judgment, layering it on like coats of paint, creating a muddle of colors and textures.
On balance, Precious thought, I’m glad I’m a dog.