“But I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.” -Jules

Violet’s collar popped right off. She realized she was loose within a split-second of when I did, too late for me to snatch at her neck. She took off towards the busy two-lane, and I shrieked. Redford was already back in the car, so I slammed the door and ran away from the road, in the direction of the field next to the gas station, knowing she’d follow. She did, but kept a wide berth—she wasn’t going to give up her new-found freedom that easily.

I called her and caller her, and she ran around sniffing the rural southern Virginia smells. People were driving really fast down the straightaway in front of the convenience store, and at one point, when she banked roadward, my pitch hit panic-level.

Just then, a man in a one-piece, zip-up, navy blue mechanic’s suit, long straight ponytail hanging down to his shoulder blades, face covered in a bushy beard, came striding toward me, arm outstretched. “I’ve got a chicken wing! Will that help?”

Yes, I said, thank you.

Violet was bowing and barking, dashing forward and sprinting away. The mechanic squatted and wagged the wing in her direction. She scurried up, snatched the wing out of his hand, and bolted. He looked at me and laughed.

“I’m sorry! She’s so naughty,” I said.

“That’s OK—I got another one,” he said, and headed back to his car.

This time, he peeled pieces of it off and tossed them to her. Violet would run up just close enough to gobble down the meat and then gallop away and bark playfully.

About that time, a yokel sauntered over, pushing his giant beer belly in front of him.

“How long yew had ‘at dawg?” he wheezed.

What did that matter? “Seven years,” I said.

“Yew had ‘at dawg sebb’m years, and hit won’t come to ye?”

“Not all the time,” I replied.

He lumbered back to the convenience store.

The mechanic and I spent another couple minutes tossing bits of dark meat to my obstreperous pit bull. Finally, she decided—as she does—that she’d had enough fun and ran up to me. “SIT,” I said, mean face on. She sat. I hitched her up. “Thank you so much,” I said to the mechanic and headed for the store. “Come on, let me buy you some chicken wings.”

“Naw, don’t you worry about that. I had a hot dog already. I’m just glad your dog didn’t run out in the road,” he replied. And he got in his two-door domestic and drove away.

I thought about the incident the rest of the day and in the moments before sleep that night. Maybe it was a “let everyone be your Buddha” situation, or perhaps some Being John Malcovich self-absorption, but I started pondering how I play each role of that scenario in my life.

Where am I Violet—playful but willful, and limited in my trust? Basically, whenever I have to deal with people.

Where am I me—thwarted, overwhelmed, paralyzed? Career.

Where am I the yokel, asking unhelpful questions and offering disempowering rhetoric? I don’t think I do this to others, but my entire inner monologue is unhelpful questions and disempowering rhetoric, particularly but not exclusively about being single.

“How old are you again?”
“Thirty-eight.”
“You’re 38 years old, and you still don’t know how to find or maintain a romantic relationship?”
“…No.”

And where am I the guy with the chicken wing—open, helpful, generous?

I don’t know, but I’m going to try real hard to be that way.

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