Each night I walk the dogs, I pass by our neighbor’s huge, beautiful home and dedicated security guard. Rumour has it that they’re owners of the Burger King franchise in Panama and they have their own guard because their home was once robbed for payroll. The guard stands in front of their house between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am each night. For months, I’ve walked past and never spoken to him. I understand that he’s providing a service to my neighbors and keeping them safe but I’m not really looking to chat with anyone with a gun. I find his huge weapon off-putting — probably as it’s intended to be…
One Friday night he initiated conversation with me at first asking standard questions about Sammy and Billy — like their gender and age — and then more personal questions about myself. “Your mother is a doctor, right?” Yes. “And you’re an attorney?” Yes. I mean, I was. I think it’s strange that he knows anything about me since we’ve never spoken. Then he proceeds to tell me what he thinks of me — that I’m a serious person, that he thinks I’m pretty, that he respects my friendly yet distanced manner, and has since the first time he saw me, because men in Panama sometimes try to get away with too much by women, blah, blah, blah. When he finally stops chatting I thank him and ask him his name. “Jose,” he says and outstretches his hand. I shake it but he does that uncomfortable thing where he holds onto me for way too long. Blech. A couple of nights later, he pulls the same handshake stunt so I decide to hold off on longer walks at night and stay towards the other end of the street.
After a few days, when I finally decide I’m done hiding, I walk past Jose. Instead of just saying hello as I’d prefer, he comments that he hasn’t seen me for a few days and that he’s been wondering if he said something to offend me and whether he should apologize. Obviously, my attempt to avoid an awkward situation has failed. Again, I smile and pretend, say that everything is fine, and continue walking my dogs.
As I’m heading back to my building, across the street runs the ugliest animal I have ever seen. This is no exaggeration. If you’ve ever seen a raccoon or a fox scurry past you, seeing this thing meander nearby by is, like, 10 times worse. I’m kind of freaked out by this mysterious creature with a snout-type face and long pointy tail but try to stay calm as I pass by hoping Sammy does not notice it and that the creature does not notice Billy and consider him a tasty little snack. By the time I reach home, I have goosebumps. I try to explain to Ali and Mom what I saw hoping they’ll identify the type of animal. Ali is so creeped out by my initial description that she doesn’t want to hear any more details. “Did you tell Jose?” he asks. No, I did not. I’d spent so much time trying to keep a comfortable distance from him that it didn’t even occur to me to ask for help. Suddenly it dawns on me: maybe it’s a good thing to have an admirer with a gun.
My internet images searches lead me to believe I saw an aardvark or an anteater, which are the same thing, I think. Since they’re native to Africa, that’s probably not what I saw. Fingers crossed I never see it again.