The novel that I’m working on now explores what it means to be in a girl’s body in this world at this time. It’s about control and consent and physicality and wildness. It is also about space. How do we claim it? Fill it? Own it?
Yesterday at the dog park, I had a really upsetting interaction with a woman. Her dog took my dog’s ball, and the woman simply shrugged. “He’s a ball stealer,” she said. “Sorry. I can’t get it back from him.”
What followed (and I’ll spare you the details) was my utter disbelief in her behavior as well as my desire to get my $5 Chuck-It ball back. She ended up swearing at me and yelling at me and saying I was stupid to have an expensive ball for my dog and expecting it back and a whole lot of horrible things. Including telling me that she walked in the park every day and hoped she would never see me again.
Talk about claiming space (and balls that don’t belong to you.)
I walked home shaken (I am not a lover of conflict). She ended up driving up next to me in her truck and holding out the ball. “Here!” she snapped. Apparently her dog gives them back when he gets in the car. I took the ball and continued home.
But the damage was done. I too walk in that park nearly every day. I make two loops and throw the ball for Gilda so she can get good and worn out so that I can write. I use that space daily, and yet my first inclination was to find another place to walk. As I said, I am not a lover of conflict.
How many times has this happened to you? When have you been pushed out of space, emotional or physical, that you have every right to occupy? How many times? I could give you a long list, and I am tired of it.
I’m not saying that we should all turn into narcissistic Trump twins who think that the world was made for us and us alone, but we do not need to shrink. We do not need to cede territory.
So today, when Gilda brings me her ball and tells me it is time to go, we go to the dog park, our park. And if that woman is there, then okay. I can take it. I can even find some empathy for her. It must suck to have your dog be a dick.
It’s a small act of rebellion but I deserve it.
And so does Gilda.