Saturday Night, November 28, 2017
I saw Vanille, Jeanette’s little dog, as she turned the corner onto 13th Street near 1st Avenue. I was tired, and not feeling particularly happy. It’s cold in New York City, and it was very chilly on this on again, off again rainy Saturday night. I wanted to go home, but Vanille had seen me. She seemed oddly out of place, on her own at the corner as she waited for Jeanette to catch up. Jeanette walks very, very slowly, rocking with each step, cane in hand, and in tremendous discomfort. Rheumatoid arthritis and severe back pain don’t keep her indoors, though, and don’t prevent her from taking Vanille out.
I wanted to see Jeanette because she is one who makes people feel good. She is happy to see you, and makes you know it without hesitation or inhibition. A bright and beautiful and eager Hello for many people as they pass by, strangers included, sometimes quizzical looks are thrown her way, but who cares? With many more surprised and happy receptions it makes the enterprise worth her time, this habit of greeting all. She’s been in the East Village for 43 years, and on this night she began expressing serious concerns about her ability to make it through another cold New York winter in her beloved East Village neighborhood, and whether or not she would see her next birthday, her 82nd, on
November 9, 2018. She detailed for me the life spans of her nearest relatives, and we sat outside Mikey’s Ice Cream on Avenue A, on a wooden bench with Vanille at our feet, occasionally wandering off a bit down the street to alarm concerned passerby–is this sweet little old dog a stray?–as we counted and calculated and guessed. I listened and, as I did, I thought about my own life, and my responsibilities toward my son…..and I remembered the words of a homeless man I had met recently near Union Square, on East 16th Street. He said to me that we are promised nothing. Just because you want it, need it, expect it or deserve it, it is not promised to you. And no truer words have been spoken.