dating, humor, personal writing

the puppy and the squirrel

I hate to disappoint you but ‘the puppy and the squirrel’ is not going to be a heart-warming tale of interspecies love – nah, I just like the title. And I will be talking about both a squirrel and a puppy here. So things could be worse. (Things, in fact, ARE worse. Far far worse. Out There, in the Real World. But here in Pollyanna Savage la-la land, puppies and squirrels is where we’re at, people).

First, I am 98.9% sure I did not get that out of state job. And you know what? Today, I am relieved. While it was sort of a dream job for me, I am too old and infirm (for reals, but I’ll get to that) to uproot my life and move across not one but two state lines for a job. So, yeah, I feel some relief.

But yesterday. Yesterday was another story. Here’s where the squirrel comes in.

Well, before we get to the squirrel even, you must know that one reason I feel I did not get a job offer is because of my leg. I’ll explain. I’m several months post-op (of my umpteenth major surgery, some congenital issue, blah blah blah) and still struggling with a lot of chronic pain and functional limitations. I was just starting to be able to do things like go grocery shopping (and go to TARGET, y’all!), and after not having been able to do stuff like that for almost a year and a half, I was THRILLED. Consumerism, FTW!

Enter Esmerelda. (Not her real name, but I’m liking it already.)

Esmerelda is – no, not the squirrel, we’re not there in our tale quite yet – a very young (why do all people under 30 look pre-pubescent to me now?!) physical therapist who stood in for my regular (older, more experienced) physical therapist a couple days prior to The Big Interview. She was well-meaning, but my god, she pushed my leg too far – literally. I feel like I heard it. It is not Esmerelda’s fault, really – she was just trying to do her job, pushing down on a knee that hasn’t been able to straighten for a year and a half (you know how it is).

But two days after seeing her, I was at the job interview and the Esmerelda Effect hit its peak. My pain skyrocketed up several notches on the old (ridonculous) pain scale (have you seen that thing – those faces just scream “SCIENCE!”). So much pain I actually had to cut my full-day interview short. I mean, what holy grail of interview faux pas is that!? The experts tell us all the tips – make eye contact with the interviewer, remember their name, say yes to their glass of water offer, be yourself – but not, oh I don’t know, CUT THE INTERVIEW SHORT AND GO HOME.

So on my long drive back across two state lines, I just ruminated – there is no way I will ever get the dream job now. My damn leg gets in the way of my life, again. And Esmerelda.

OK. Here’s where we get to the squirrel.

So I’m all feeling sorry for myself because no word on the job days after the committee met to make their decision. I’m in the midst of a little pity party on my patio when all of a sudden a squirrel drops from the sky (okay, a tree). My cat runs for it, and is stopped short by her leash (I already mentioned to you guys that I walk my cat on a leash?). But the squirrel only looks at my cat lunging at him and squiggles a bit but does not run away.

I go to investigate.

The squirrel does not run away when I approach him either. He tries, but he’s hurt. His back legs. Was he hit by a car or mangled by an animal and managed to just get up that one tree? I don’t know, but he’s not about to get back up that or any tree.

A Real Woman might have been like, OK, we know what we have to do! Get him to a vet – OR – we will put on our Big Girl Pants and somehow put this poor little guy out of his – ACK – I cannot even finish that sentence, let alone contemplate the act, however merciful it might be. A Real Woman might have done the merciful thing. Me? I burst into tears. Like full bore tears. Outside, in public, in the common area of my apartment building. I tell myself I am going to give the poor squirrel space. But I’m the one who needs a little space.

I related to the squirrel. He couldn’t get very far. He was struggling. His poor legs! The flies were already starting to perch on his back, the goddamn vultures. And given I’m too squeamish to do anything useful in this situation, we – the squirrel, the cat, the flies, and I – all of us knew: the squirrel was going to die.

OK, I hear it too. Melodramatic.

Are you ready for the puppy part of the story yet?

Yeah, me too.

Enter Professor Cute Butt. (He’s not the puppy – wait for it!) We had our fourth date the other night, and, you know, I think it’s going pretty well.

But then he texts me saying he had some news he wanted to share but he’d rather do so on the phone, are you around? I could hear my heart in my ears.

He is calling to dump your sorry a$$!, Inner Voice adds, helpfully.

I text back right away. (OMG you guys – I just checked my text history: Prof. CB texted yesterday at 12:17pm. My response? Also 12:17pm.) Okay, maybe I am a bit jumpy, yeah? In any case, I say I’m around now, and he calls.

I answer on the first ring, “What’s up!?”

Prof. CB says, “Oh, so we’re not going to do the small talk thing first?”

I laugh (hehe) and indulge him, heart bracing, mind racing. HE IS GONNA SAY SAYONARA.

“I just wanted to call to tell you by phone rather than text. The boys and I have been on the waitlist for a puppy for a very long time. I feel like it’ll help them to have a puppy. They’ve wanted one since, you know, the divorce. Anyway, we just got off the waitlist. So, um, we are getting a puppy…. next week.”

We both wait to hear what I am going to say.

Still certain this is segue to sayonara, I attempt a gracious, “Oh, okay, congratulations! That’s great! A puppy, wow!”

The Professor: “Well, I told my therapist this puppy was going to ruin my social life, and…. uh, since you’re kind of my social life these days, I wanted to let you know. Cuz it sort of, um, complicates things?”

We discuss. A puppy is not like a cat, you see. The cat poops and pees in a box inside the house. It’s very convenient not being on bathroom duty all the time. Like, I can leave my cat in my apartment overnight. I can go out for long stretches. I can (and do) take her out on a leash, but I DO NOT HAVE TO. That’s what I’m saying. Puppies? Yeah, not so much.

What does this really mean? All I hear in Professor Cute Butt’s call was: words words words BUH-BYE! words words words. So I tell him, ever-accommodating, “We’ll figure it out!”, then added, as an insecurely-attached girl is wont to do, “That is, if you want to figure it out…?”

“I wouldn’t be calling you otherwise, silly!” He doesn’t actually say “silly” but that’s the tone. Like, DUH!

Then he adds, “My therapist was trying to be helpful and said that a puppy doesn’t mean you can’t meet up with people and go for walks. But he doesn’t realize that the person I’m thinking of, well……” He trails off, but he doesn’t need to complete that sentence. We both know: I am not someone who can just “go for walks.” Not with this leg.

We hang up. I am bummed out. The puppy. The squirrel. I’m the squirrel. Enter the puppy. Exit the squirrel, on a quiet little squirrel stretcher. No, not really, but yeah, you can tell I was a little existentially flummoxed.

Waiting for the other shoe* – or squirrel, as the case may be – to drop straight out of the sky. That’s just what I do. (Well, that and delivering on my promise to you of mixed metaphors, jeez.)

Anyway, enter my ever-wise bff. While we’re deconstructing, you know, Everything, she points out – well, he values you enough to consider the impact of a puppy on you guys? And he CALLED you to tell you? After only 4 dates? Um, yeah, I wouldn’t worry about it.

And when I think about it this way, it even starts to make me a little happy. Maybe I’m not the squirrel. Maybe I get the job, maybe I don’t. Maybe the sky isn’t falling, is what I’m getting at.

So here we are, dear Reader: we started with a sad squirrel story. We ended with a happy puppy story.

How do they go together, pray tell?

Uhhh….. LOOK OVER THERE! SQUIRREL!!

See? Done. These two things are totes related.

Now, moving on. Hopefully not to a little squirrel funeral though. Wait, what? You wouldn’t want to accompany me to a little squirrel funeral?

Uhhh…. LOOK OVER THERE! PUPPY!!

*No actual shoes were harmed in the making of this post. (Only your brain as you tried to follow my, um, logic.)

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