It’s Monday. I sit on a park bench across from the restaurant where the guy I’m following has gone inside for lunch. I sink my teeth into my sandwich, a foot-long Italian I got at the corner deli, when a mellow, slightly slurred voice says from behind me, “That sure is a big sandwich, one of the biggest I’ve seen yet.”
Portland has a transient problem. Following my guy through the Southwest Park Blocks was a begathon of the homeless asking for spare change, but not my dimes and quarters. One got snarky when I offered him that. He wanted nothing less than a fiver.
I don’t normally spend my afternoons following people, but I got a call last night from an old girlfriend I hadn’t spoken to since I shot the photos for her wedding. As Eva and I small-talked on the phone, I did the math. It had been seven years since their wedding and the title of that old Billy Wilder movie, The Seven Year Itch, popped into my head.
I’ve never been very good at the long-term relationship thing. I must have ADD when it comes to relationships. How do people do it? How do they keep it interesting? After years together don’t they wonder what it would be like to be with someone else? Or considering how much we base our identity on who we are with, do they ever daydream of being someone else? Seven years seems to be as good a time for that as any. But for me and my attention span, seven years would be poison ivy from hell.
Eva was calling about her husband, Stan. She was worried about him. “Call it what you will, women’s intuition, but I know something is up with him. He’s acting odd. He’s not himself. I think he’s up to something.” She still had that soft voice I remembered from our time together that sounded kind even when she was voicing her suspicions, a trait I don’t remember her having. I guess people change.
“And you think he’s stepping out on you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“I appreciate the chance to catch up, Eva, but why call me with this? Isn’t this what you talk about with a girlfriend?”
“Actually, I’ve hashed it out a lot.” She cleared her throat, paused for a moment, then rushed on. “It’s like this. I could ask Stan to his face and he’d deny anything and everything. You never got to know him but that’s how he is, at least that’s how he is now, not so much back when we married. I need proof that he’s stepping out. Hard proof. That or to know what’s making him act weird. And then I thought of you. You’re handy with a camera, you can get me that proof. I can put it in his face and say, hey, what’s up with this?”
I had learned to keep my nose out of other people’s business. “It sounds cheesy but wouldn’t a private investigator be better suited for this? Someone with experience?”
“A stranger? Ugh.” She pauses and I picture her scrunching up her face in distaste. “Look, Dixon, you and I haven’t kept in touch but we remained friends after we dated and I always respected your honesty.”
I laughed. “Not everyone feels that way.”
“That’s their loss. I’m not asking you for a freebie. I can pay you. Come on, what else do you have going during the week? It’s not like a lot of people get married on a Monday or Tuesday and need a photographer.”
She had a point; business had been slow. Not a lot of Millennials were getting married so they could start a family in their parents’ basement. Besides, being asked to look into someone’s personal business was different than just sticking my nose in it. “What do you want me to do exactly?”
“Just follow him around and take some photos if gets up to anything, especially during and after lunch. If he’s up to anything it’s then.”
“Why do you say that?”
“His phone habits. He’s hard to reach during that time, he never picks up, and it’s a while before he calls back. Plus, he’s around someone with a cat. I’ve seen the hair on his clothes. I know lots of women with cats but very few men.”
My imagination ran with the intimate details of their failing marriage. We settled on a daily rate, she gave me the pertinent info on where they lived and where Stan worked, and I told her I’d get back to her.
* * *
I can see Stan through the restaurant window as I chew my sandwich.
“That mayonnaise sure does smell good,” the guy behind me slurs.
I don’t turn around to look. Acknowledging him will just encourage him to hang around. His slurred speech paints enough of a mental picture of who is behind me and where this is going. I don’t want to see him and endanger my appetite. Though it’s curious the drunk has asked about my sandwich because they usually just want cash to buy more fortified wine. Who eats when they can get juiced?
The drunk slurps as he smacks his lips. “Are you going to eat all of it? That’s a lot of sandwich, even for a big guy like you.” Continue reading “The Dog That Talked – Episode One – Mayonnaise & Tuna”